A pot full of sweet iced gem biscuits

Kalmia latifilia - lovely in June.
Kalmia latifilia - lovely in June.
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Thank you again for your letters and this week I am responding to three I have received from regular readers Eric, Mary and Christine. They live in flats and would like advice on shrubs which are easy to grow in pots and containers.

My very favourite is eleagnus maculata aurea. This always looks good because the magnificent gold-coloured centre in the leaves is beautiful during the winter.

It is easy to keep in shape in a container because all you need to do is prune out the tips of all the branches during the summer.

Aucuba japonica looks great too with evergreen leaves that look like laurel.

Have a look at the different varieties at garden centres and you will be surprised how beautiful they are and they are so easy to grow.

For something very unusual, have a look at kalmia latifilia. This needs John Innes ericaceous compost but the flowers are remarkable because the buds look like iced gem biscuits and look lovely in June.

Fatsia japonica is known as an architectural plant and is often called the false castor oil plant.

The leaves look like huge hands and it has fascinating seed heads which look like white berries during the autumn and winter.

To add some winter colour plant choisya Sundance. The yellow foliage looks wonderful every day of the year and the lightly fragrant blossom is very welcome during the early summer followed by more fragrance when it flowers again during the autumn.

A lovely idea to brighten up the garden in winter is to plant an old sink with two contrasting coloured winter-flowering heathers.

Place three of each colour in ericaceous compost, make sure the sink has the plug removed and put a layer of crocks (broken flowerpot pieces) in the base to ensure good drainage.

Heathers always look better if you look down on them which explains why I have gone for a sink rather than a taller container.

The great advantage of growing evergreen shrubs in pots or containers is that you can move them around at any time of year.

If you look at garden centres, it is possible to buy little trolleys which go under the pots.

These are very handy if gardening is physically becoming more difficult. The trolleys also keep the pot off the soil. This ensures good drainage as well as stopping worms getting into the pot.

If you have no intention of moving the pots around, put four little feet underneath the pots, again to prevent over-watering.

In summer, shrubs in containers enhance the flowers in the flower borders, but during the winter your garden looks well-furnished.

All the shrubs recommended here are pruned as soon as they finish flowering except the aucuba which is pruned in spring as soon as the berries turn black.


If you enjoy sowing flower seeds directly into a border you need to choose hardy annuals such as nasturtium, cornflowers, larkspur and godetia. There are lots of others too. Sow them as soon as the weather becomes warmer.