Summer Containers are a wonderful way of adding colour and plant interest to a patio, courtyard or any other area where planting into the soil is not an option.
There are a wealth of styles and different materials for containers. And the important thing to remember is that, unless you fill your containers with drought tolerant succulents, regular watering and feeding is the secret to healthy looking, long lasting flowers.
When choosing plants for containers try to group together a selection of plants that all like the same growing conditions i.e. full sun or shade.
Different heights gives a more defined look to the container. Group with the largest in the middle, grading down in size with trailing plants around the edges. You’ll then have a container that will look good whichever angle it’s viewed from.
Mixing slow release fertiliser with the soil when first planting up the container should help keep the plants well fed. But summer containers in particular benefit from additional regular feeding with a high potassium liquid food whilst the plants are in flower.
Regular deep watering of your summer container is much better for plants. It encourages plant roots to grow to the bottom of the container. Whereas quick, short bursts of watering produce shallow rooted plants that will dry out quickly compared to the deeper rooted ones. It’s also better to water first thing in the morning. As evening watering creates a warm, dark, moist atmosphere overnight much beloved of slugs and snails!
Here are 3 different look summer containers to take you through to autumn and beyond:
Container for full sun
Dahlias repeat flower right the way through to the first frosts. Making an ideal central plant for a full sun container. The Bishop’s series offer a range of different colour single flowers. Bishop of Oxford will give you a succession of orange red flowers especially if you remember to dead head them regularly.
Pair it with a deep purple salvia such as Salvia nemorosa (Meadow Sage) ‘Caradonna’. As, when it finishes flowering, it leaves behind a series of attractive seed heads running up the length of each flower stem. Later in the season you may be lucky and have birds feeding off the seedheads.
Finish off the container by planting white flowered Thymus praecox (White flowered thyme) ’Albiflorus’. Trailing thyme plants around the front to soften and spill over the edges.
Container for shade
Hostas love shade. And there are many different sizes as well as different shades of green leaf varieties to choose from. Some of them will produce delicate looking flowers on long stems. Hosta ‘El Nino’ is a medium size variety with white edged, handsome intense smoky blue, broad, pointed leaves and lavender colour flowers.
Place this in the centre of the container. With our native shade loving grass, Luzula sylvatica (Greater Woodrush) and finish off the container with light pink flowered Astilbe ‘Sprite’ to create a cheerful combination to brighten up the darkest of areas
Choose an evergreen shrub for your year round interest central plant. Something like Euonymus japonicus (Japanese euonymus) ’Green Rocket’ with its shiny evergreen leaves and fairly narrow upright shape.
This low growing, low maintenance plant means you’ve always got something of interest in the container. This will allow you to easily seasonally change the look and it doesn’t just have to be with ornamentals.
Evergreen herbs like Garlic chives with their strap like leaves and pretty white flowers in September look great year round. Plus the added bonus of being harvestable!
Finish off the planting with colourful violas which will flower for months on end. And you’ll have created one classy looking container.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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