Last spring, I decided it was time to give my little courtyard a make-over, by potting up three matching containers. My challenge was to choose plants which would provide interest all year round and continue to look good the following year. It was hard work restraining myself over the cold months but, eventually, in early spring, I allowed myself to indulge in my favourite pastime at the garden centre!
Buying plants earlier in the year means that the plants are small – and I did have to take some on faith that they were going to survive and grow more than the one flimsy leaf they came home with – but they are usually cheaper, so you can get a...
Driving down through France at the end of October, we pulled into the motorway services near Troyes for a bite to eat. The planned quick pit stop took longer than expected, though, as I was side-tracked on the way in by an unexpected horticultural delight!
The entrance was enlivened by 4 vertical panels of planting, still looking fantastic despite the gloomy weather and lateness of the season.
I was lucky enough to get a close-up view of the living wall installations at Siam Paragon and EmQuartier, both in Bangkok.
These are indoor plantings in a tropical country, though, so the outdoor living wall at Troyes was inspiring for providing an example of vertical planting that could work well in my...
Planting up a container is a bit like designing a garden bed in miniature and the same design principles apply.
Get the colour scheme right. Nature’s soothing greens often make even unlikely plant groupings work, but don’t rely on that if you want your containers to sing. Decide whether you want harmonising or contrasting colours, pastels or rich hues.
A group of pansies in varying hues of purple-blue make a soothing combination. The bright yellow eyes and different flower sizes maintain interest.
Vibrant clashes can work well – like this glorious combination of tulips and grape hyacinths.
But take care! When my new display of red summer pelargoniums suddenly took off, they clashed horribly with a pot of purple...
Window boxes, spilling over with summer colour, or containers lit up with seasonal bulbs – you can ring the changes by moving into the limelight pots of just-ready-to-bloom bulbs or plants at their peak of perfection.
Still, it’s good to have a collection of containers which look good all year round in the garden. If you don’t have the time – or money – to keep updating displays, or if you just want some good do-ers to form a reliable backdrop to those flowering divas, then an all-season pot is the one to go for… And with a bit of thought and preparation, it’s not difficult to choose plants which will provide long-lasting interest in the garden.
Winter is not all bare branches and empty garden borders! Camera in hand, I set myself the challenge of tracking down plants which brighten up the dead days of winter.
Even when frosted with ice or with a sprinkling of snow, holly can be relied on to provide deep greens and rich red berries. Ivy and mistletoe complete the trio of festive evergreens.
In the medieval, walled town of Pérouges, in eastern France, I spotted a collection of window boxes which combined Christmas baubles and pine cones with winter pansies and cyclamen. When it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations, the pansies and cyclamen continue to brighten up the window sills.
Decorating the house walls above them, traditional bunches...
With leaden skies and the days getting shorter and colder, it was time to inject a splash of colour on our front door step!
1. Skimmia, heuchera and winter pansies
A trip to the local garden centre is a great pick-me-up at any time of year, but on a chilly November day it was a heart-warming experience! Fairy lights twinkled and deliciously cute, fluffy rabbits waved from their glittery warrens as I passed through the Christmas grotto and out into the plant sales area. Of course, there wasn’t the huge array of colourful flowers you’d find at other times of the year. Still, there was plenty of choice for garden lovers hoping to cheer up their winter flower beds –...