BRIAN KIDD: A mixture of pinks, blues and greys for container elegance

A collection of well-filled containers need not be expensive
A collection of well-filled containers need not be expensive
Chrysanthemums bought in pots and added to the border look great in autumn.

BRIAN KIDD: Mum’s the word for an added splash of autumn fire in borders

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Containers add character to a garden. They need not cost the earth because if the right plants are chosen the sides of the container are hidden within a month of planting.

Ensure there are holes in the base. Before filling with compost, pieces of broken clay flowerpot called crocks are put over these holes so excess water can escape through the bottom.

Then put four little feet under the container to keep it off paving. This improves drainage and stops worms getting into the compost.

Worms are wonderful in open ground, but in pots they eat all fibrous material and the compost ends up like silt.

The best potting compost for containers is John Innes No3. It is the strongest because it contains more fertiliser than others and because it has loam in the mixture. Trace elements in the loam are less likely to be washed out. Proprietary brands are available but many gardeners will tell you some are disappointing because the compost becomes ‘cloggy’. This is easily remedied by adding 10 per cent extra sharp sand or potting sand and mixing well before filling the containers.

The choice of plants and colours is up to you, but try to ignore ‘mixed’.

Colour schemes? Red and yellow are contrasting. They’re both bright and will add radiance. Pink, blue and grey together look elegant, colours which add serenity and quietness. Oranges, yellows and white look great in dull areas because they add a touch of sunshine.

The great thing is that we can find suitable plants for any of these colour schemes as nearly everything to be planted now is in flower at garden centres.

Geraniums, petunias, busy Lizzies, bidens, verbena, andbegonias are in flower and will bloom for the entire summer. A combination of these will be ideal for that container.

Plant the edge with petunia Blue Vein. Three planted around the edge will cover the largest tub in four weeks and the perfume is wonderful. Planted near a door, you can enjoy the fragrance every time you go into the garden.

New to gardening? Here’s a trick to try before buying. Choose plants in pots and put them on the ground to see how many you need. A container three feet across only needs nine plants in three-inch pots (when planting, the plants are knocked out of the pots!).

Watering is important. The first is best done with a rose on the can. The plants need a good soak. Now feel the compost’s surface and water when it feels dry.

Start feeding four weeks after planting. I use Maxicrop Complete plant food which is organic and contains all the plant’s requirements. It feeds the compost and the plants then absorb what the they need.

The fertiliser can be changed if flowers seem to be scarce, so Maxicrop for tomatoes is excellent.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

Are you saving water? Gardeners can set a good example. Everyone lets the tap run for a few moments so the water runs cold as cold water is far more pleasing to the palate. Don’t allow that water to run down the plug hole. Use a bottle to catch it and put the bottle in the fridge. The water will be lovely and cold in an hour or so. Or do you waste your money on bottled water?