Container planting makes good scents

Elegant - pink, blue and grey add a touch of sophistication.
Elegant - pink, blue and grey add a touch of sophistication.

BRIAN KIDD: From pom poms to cactus, dahlias just keep on giving

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Containers of flowers 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.

It’s important to ensure there are holes in the base and before filling with compost pieces of broken clay flower pot, crocks, are placed over the holes so excess water can escape through the base.

Four little feet can then be used to keep the container off the paving. This improves drainage and also stops worms entering the compost. Worms are wonderful in open ground, but in pots they eat all the fibrous material and the compost ends up like silt.

The best compost for containers is John Innes No3 potting compost. It is the strongest because it contains more fertiliser than the others and it has loam in the mixture. The trace elements in the loam are less likely to be washed out of the compost.

Other brands are available but many gardeners will tell you some are disappointing because the compost seems to become ‘cloggy’. This problem is remedied by adding 10 per cent extra sharp sand or potting sand and mixing this well before filling the containers.

The choice of plants and colours is a personal thing but try to get away from the ‘mixed’ theme. Think about colour schemes.

Red and yellow are contrasting colours. They are both bright and add radiance. Pink, blue and grey together look elegant adding serenity and quietness. Oranges, yellows and white all look great in dull areas because they add a touch of sunshine.

The good news is nearly everything to be planted now is in flower at garden centres and nurseries. Geraniums, petunias, busy Lizzies, Bidens, verbena and begonias are in flower right now and will bloom for the entire summer. So a combination of these will be ideal for that container.

Asters, Ten-Week Stocks and Livingstone daisies are not good choices because their flowering time is far too short. Plant them in borders.

Plant the edge of the container with Petunia Blue Vein – three planted around the perimeter will cover the largest tub in four weeks and the perfume is wonderful, so, planted near a door, the fragrance can be enjoyed every time you go into the garden.

If you are new to gardening, here’s a little trick to try before buying your plants. At the garden centre, select plants in pots and set them out on the ground so you can see just how many you need. A container three feet across only needs nine plants in three-inch pots. Remember: when planting, the plants are knocked out of the pots!

Watering is important. The first is best done with a rose on the watering can and the plants need a good soak. After this, feel the surface of the compost and water when it feels dry. Feeding starts four weeks after planting. As you know, I use Maxicrop Complete liquid plant food which is organic and contains all the plants’ requirements. It feeds the compost and the plants then absorb what they need. The fertiliser can be changed if the flowers seem to be scarce. Maxicrop for tomatoes is excellent.

TIP OF THE WEEK

When planting up a container for summer flowers pop in two lettuce plants called Salad Bowl. These are bright-looking with curly leaves and no one will notice you are growing lettuce. When you need some to eat, cut off just what is wanted with scissors and within a week or so, the plant will produce more leaves for picking.