GARDENING: Add vibrancy to your garden with colourful containers 

Some vibrant busy Lizzies. Think carefully about your colour scheme.
Some vibrant busy Lizzies. Think carefully about your colour scheme.

SOUTHSEA GREEN: Mystery of the old pond

Containers of flowers add character to a garden and they needn’t cost the earth because if the right plants are chosen, the sides of the container are hidden away within a month of planting.

It is important to ensure there are holes in the base. Before filling with compost pieces of broken clay flower pot – called crocks – should be placed over the holes so that excess water can escape through the base.

Four little feet can then be used to keep the container off the paving. This is a good idea because it improves drainage, but it also stops worms getting into the compost. Worms are wonderful in the 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 Number 3 Potting Compost. It is the strongest because it contains more fertiliser than the others and, because it has loam in the mixture, the trace elements in the loam are less likely to be washed out of the compost. 

This problem is easily 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 mixed. 

Think about colour schemes. Red and yellow are contrasting colours; they are both bright and will add radiance. Pink, blue and grey together look elegant; these colours add serenity and quietness.

Oranges, yellows and white all 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 and plant nurseries.

Geraniums, petunias, busy Lizzies, bidens, verbena and begonias are in flower right now and will still be in bloom for the entire summer, so a combination of these will be ideal for that container. Asters, 10-week stock and Livingstone daisies are not good choices because the flowering time is far too short. Plant them in borders.

Plant the edge with petunia blue vein; three planted around the edge will cover even the largest tub within four weeks and the perfume is wonderful. Planted near a door, the fragrance can be enjoyed every time the garden is entered.

If you are new to gardening, there is a little trick you can try before buying your plants. While at the garden centre, choose some plants in pots and set them out on the ground so that you can see just how many you need. A container three feet across only needs nine plants in three inch pots.

Watering is important - the first watering 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 commences four weeks after planting. I use Maxicrop all-purpose plant food, which is organic and contains all the plant's requirements. It feeds the compost and the plants then absorb what they need.

THIS WEEK'S TOP TIPS

Dead daffodil leaves must be allowed to die naturally. Don't pull them off. The sap will go into the underground bulb and will initiate next year's spring flowers. If seed heads are removed there will be blooms next spring.