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Med in a container


August is holiday month for many. That sort of includes us, as we do not teach any courses during this month.

Yes, we are preparing for the new start in September, so this means lessons to plan and facilities to prepare, but in general we have a little time to chillax.

We are not going away this summer – plants and animals put the kybosh on that. So time for a little gentle gardening to tart up the patio area so we can ‘pretend’ we are somewhere a little more exotic than Manea!

Container gardening is a wonderful way to inject colour and interest to an area instantly and with relative ease. Permanent or seasonal plants can soon brighten up a corner of the garden or be used to provide fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs for the kitchen.

No digging will be needed and very little weeding should be required. A little in the way of pruning or dead-heading, and of course, watering. Careful selection of the right containers and composts, as well as suitable plants, however, is so important for a successful display.

Choice of container There are just so many types – shapes, sizes and materials – to choose from nowadays. Modern materials have come on so much in the last few years – ‘lead’, ‘wood’ and ‘stone’ planters that have to be touched to prove they are not the real thing. And they are cheaper, lighter and frost proof!

Terracotta remains a favourite of mine, but we have to be aware that these can be prone to frost if left out in winter, especially if not raised up on feet to aid drainage. Many of the plants I have potted will be overwintered in the greenhouse, or are under cover of a veranda, so this will not be an issue.

A couple of hints about container choice: firstly find a style or material you like and stick to it to ensure a cohesive effect; secondly, a few larger containers are easier to look after than lots of small ones, which will dry out very quickly.

Choice of compost

It does not pay to go for a cheap multi-purpose, particularly if you are planting permanent containers. I like to plant in a mix made up of a decent multi-purpose and a soil based, such as John Innes 3. I tend to add a controlled release fertiliser so I know the plants get the nutrition they need and I may add extra grit, for example if I am planting succulents.

If you are planting seasonal bedding you may like to add water retaining granules to aid with the watering. I prefer to add a good layer of mulch on the top of the pots – this is decorative and helps to conserve moisture. I have used a coarse grit but there are plenty of other options.

Choice of plant

I have opted for permanent plants in my containers – with a feel of the Med. I tend to stick with one variety per container, rather than a mix. This makes the maintenance so much easier, and the pots can be grouped together for effect anyway.

An olive tree presides over all. This has been quite happy outside the last couple of winters, and it is even more sheltered up near the house where it is now.

The fig seems very happy against the west facing wall, as does the star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides (pictured), which provides a wonderful heady fragrance especially in the evenings.

Ornamental foliage and scented leaf pelargoniums, agapanthus, some hardy palms (trachycarpus and cordyline) and ornamental grasses, plus a selection of herbs – all chosen to require little in the way of water.

Time for a glass of wine!

n Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre)

RHS Courses taught at all levels. Limited places left for courses commencing in September.

www.maneaschoolof gardening.org msog@btinternet.com

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