GARDENING: Shrubs which are suitable for those who live in flats

Elaeagnus maculata Aurea  - its golden leaves shine in winter.
Elaeagnus maculata Aurea - its golden leaves shine in winter.
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Thank you again for your letters. This week I am responding to three received from readers who live in flats and would like advice on shrubs which are easy to grow in pots and containers.

I can understand how difficult it must be if you have to carry heavy bags of potting compost up dozens of steps but would advise growing flowers as well as shrubs.

But let’s look at some pleasing shrubs. My favourite is elaeagnus 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 that is needed is pruning out the tips of all the branches during the summer.

Aucuba japonica looks great too, the evergreen leaves look like laurel leaves. Take a look at the different varieties at garden centres and you will be surprised how beautiful they are and how easy they are to grow.

For something very unusual, consider kalmia latifolia, the mountain laurel which will need John Innes ericaceous compost. The flowers are remarkable because the buds look like Jacob’s Iced Gem biscuits and look lovely during June.

Fatsia japonica is known as an architectural plant and is often called the false castor oil plant. The leaves are huge, with hand shapes 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 in early summer followed by more fragrance when it flowers again during the autumn.

A lovely idea to brighten the garden in winter is to plant an old sink with two contrasting coloured winter-flowering heathers, three of each colour in ericaceous compost.

Make sure the sink has the plug removed and put a layer of crocks, broken flower pot pieces in the base to ensure good drainage. Heathers always look better if you look down on them, hence the 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 in garden centres, you’ll see it is possible to buy little trolleys which go under the pots. These are very handy if gardening is becoming more difficult.

The trolleys also keep the pot off the soil and this ensures good drainage as well as preventing worms entering the pot. If you have no intention of moving the pots, put four little feet underneath the pots 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 of the shrubs recommended are pruned as soon as they finish flowering except for the aucuba which is pruned in the spring as soon as the berries turn black.

I hope you all enjoy the answer to the questions from the three regular readers.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

Gladioli corms are available half price at several garden centres. Plant them now and they will bloom in October. Plant them in groups of five because planted in this way they give a good colour impact in autumn.