I have to admit I have a serious (terracotta) pot habit. I keep trying to reduce the number I have in the garden – but they are just so useful. If a corner of the garden is looking a bit dull, or it’s a spot where the conditions aren’t right for planting in the ground, matters can generally be improved by the addition of a few pots. Anyone who has visited the wonderful gardens at Great Dixter will have seen a masterclass in the use of pots – ranged round the front door and in the nearby courtyard, this is pot arranging at its singing-and-dancing best. While I can’t aspire to Dixter-level showmanship, I am quite successful and have a few tips to pass on.
terracotta pots as well as the Sankey Moroccan range which looks like terracotta or granite but is actually a sturdy plastic material called terracina. The prices are good too, so if you’re tempted to develop your own pot habit, this may be a good place to start.
• Use a 50/50 mix of multipurpose compost and John Innes No.2 – this is heavier, so it makes the pot more stable, holds moisture in dry weather and drains well in wet weather (unlike water retaining gels)
• For tall plants or in windy locations choose straight-sided pots – they are much less likely to blow over
• Unless they are a matched pair, groups of pots look better as odd numbers of 3s, 5s or even 7s in a variety of sizes
• Mulch the surface with gravel, bark or slate – this retains moisture in dry weather and in the wet it stops the soil splashing the leaves
• In the current very wet weather, it’s easier to protect vegetables grown in pots from slugs and snails
• Avoid ‘fruit salad’ planting with lots of different colours in each pot – it’s seldom successful and tends to look messy
• Liquid feed and deadhead regularly to ensure a long-lasting display
• Long-term planting in containers needs to be top-dressed with compost or fish, blood and bone each spring
• Don’t be afraid to copy a good idea – if you see something you like take a photo and find similar plants in the garden centre
• Choose pots to complement your house and garden – nothing too sleek for a cottage garden and nothing too rustic for a contemporary garden