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I love container gardens, I have a fairly traditional garden which includes perennial borders, a potager and a cutting garden, all of which compete for my spare time. But planters and plant pots are the ultimate return on time investment, with a little planning, a simple terracotta flower pot or galvanised metal planter will produce colour throughout the Summer and through into Autumn. It can also be a productive source of salads and vegetables or strawberries grown in a strawberry planter and all this can be achieved from a back door step, a balcony garden or a small yard. Plan, plant using the right potting soil, water and deadhead, it's that simple. Read my blog post 10 reasons why you should start a container garden for more benefits of planting containers. My own containers are an assortment of our Dolly tub planters, large terracotta pots and a smattering of galvanised troughs that have been repurposed from around and about, I love exchanging planting ideas with customers,when in our shops and as I am currently midway through my planting season, I thought I would share my top ten container plants. Counting in from no 10
10. Olive trees
Olive trees are surprisingly hardy, we have olive planted in our own dolly tub planters either side of our store entrance at Malton and these have thrived where previously we have lost box trees. Olive trees create a smart look to such as an entrance and can be pruned to create elegant topiary style balls, but left to grow in a more naturalistic way particularly when planted in terracotta pots, Olive trees can add a European style to the space.
One of the most perfect container plants must be the pelargonium, my favourites include Sweet Mimosa, which has a wonderful lemon scent to the leaves and Attar of Roses pictured here, which has a lovely rose scent. Both of these have a long flowering season which stretches from June through to November, providing colour throughout the Summer into Autumn. Pelargoniums are perfect for planting alone, but to create further interest add chives or catnip. Keep well watered and deadhead regularly to prolong the flowering season.
Violas must feature on this list for two reasons, firstly, the viola will add colour all year round and secondly, this dainty flower is ideal for the smallest of pots. The viola is tolerant of most soils and is happy in partial shade, plant in Spring or Autumn to add all year round colour, violas look particularly good against zinc, as seen here in our Victoriana planter.
Snap dragons are available in a wealth of colours, this Spring I have sown three, all destined for both the cut flower garden and containers, white giant, apple blossom and black prince, these will be planted in and around dahlias and will not only give colour but will also be a good source of cut flowers which is another plus of the container garden.
Buxus has to appear on this list, for it's simplicity if nothing else. Site a single box ball planter next to an entrance or porch or add different shapes and sizes. A box ball or cone will add structure to an overall container garden display and moreover will provide interest over the Winter months, even when under a blanket of snow. Clip on or just after Derby day to maintain the shape and water regularly.
5. Verbena Bonariensis
I love Verbena Bonariensis and it self seeds around my garden at will, I also plant it throughout my container garden, I like the way it adds height and a layer of electric blue that looks beautiful at dusk. The long stems add movement particularly when it is under planted with grasses. Like other plants on this list, Verbena Bonariensis will flower long into the Autumn and is a great pollinator, which is another reason to grow it.
Pennisetum commonly known as Fountain grass is on this list because like Verbena Bonariensis, it adds movement to container displays and makes a lovely rustling sound in the breeze. Grasses also present a lovely naturalistic texture to the planting, pennisetum is available in lots of different varieties, my favourites include pennisetum setaceum and pennisetum alopecuroides also known as burgundy bunny. Fountain grass is another plant that will extend into the Winter months,and looks lovely on a frosty morning.
3. Erigeron karvinskianus
Loved by bees and butterflies and me, a wonderfully happy self seeding perennial that will quickly fill the space around it. Super easy to grow, this daisy like perennial is also a great filler plant, and will tumble over the edges of the container whilst also acting as a weed suppressor. In terms of how easy this pretty perennial is to grow, Mexican Fleabane must surely top the list.
Cosmos, my favourite annual and one that is available in a multitude of colours. This season I have sown Apricotta, Fizzy Rose & Double click rose bonbon. These will provide flowers from July until the first frost and if picked regularly, cut flowers throughout the Summer through into Autumn. I give my cosmos the Chelsea chop treatment as I plant out, chopping the top third of the plant and this ensures more blooms and a stronger bushier plant to fill the space in the container. Birds & butterflies love cosmos and it is an excellent pollinator.
And the winner is ...the dahlia. Dahlias are the ultimate container plant and with so many choose from, it can develop into an obsession. Consider the size of your container when selecting dahlias, as such as Cafe au lait grow to a great height with dinner plate flowers and will require support. The dark foliage of varieties such as Bishops Child and Schippers bronze can be used to create rich dark displays, I am also growing Downham Royal, Totally Tangerine and Copper Boy for the first time this year. I pot the tubers up in March and grow them on to plant out once the risk of frost has passed. Remember the really rewarding thing about dahlias is that for every flower picked, two more will grow, giving you a mass of cut flowers for the house. So much greener than buying flowers and these lovely old fashioned flowers are also great pollinators too.
So, that's my top ten, how many also appear on your top ten? Happy gardening!