Planting Pots to Please

In the 20th of her series Clippings From A Small Garden, travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

Looking around my garden before I wrote this, I was surprised at just how many pots I’ve got; or rather, how many plants I’ve got in pots. Most are potted because they’re on the patio, a few are waiting for their turn by the front door – a position for which only plants in first-class condition need apply – and some I‘ve put into pots simply because they needed somewhere to go while I decided where they’re going to go, if you follow my meaning. In the last category, each plant has a pot to itself. Most of the others – apart from a few big hitters like agapanthus, lilies and tree peonies – are what I call ‘show pots’ and it’s these that I want to talk about this time.

Show pots don’t rely on a solo plant performer to make an impact, but they do need a star of the show, others to set it aglow, plus a few to overflow. Put another way, you need a thriller, a filler and a spiller. Whichever rhyme you choose to remember it by, this formula works. And it also works if you use a small, carefully selected grouping of one plant type (for example, tulips) as your star performer.

Choose the star of the show first, keeping three key considerations in mind: size and shape and colour. Size is simple – it needs to be the biggest plant in the pot. Beware that it isn’t too bushy though, as that won’t leave room for the others. The best shape is slender and tall – aim for a plant that is (or will grow to) about twice the height of the pot.

Colourwise, bright works best – although with a grouping, you could add a few white flowers. Your overall colour scheme for the pot needs contrast; and at least one strong colour should be repeated in all three elements: thriller, fillers and spillers.

Pick smaller plants with smaller flowers for fillers, choosing colours that set your star aglow. If you lack colour confidence, experiment with fresh cut flowers first to find the most vibrant combinations.

Finally, your spillers. Their job is to hide the edge of the pot. Choose a mix of plants and also a mix of colours; and consider adding a foliage-only plant to introduce another shade of green.

Follow the planting routine I outlined last time, then stand back and admire. Good show!

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and, a website showcasing properties with a past.