Conifers for a Seasonal Showpiece
An attractive conifer makes the ideal centre-piece for a rustic tub, providing a permanent, evergreen feature that can be enhanced with bedding plants for a seasonally-changing display.
Containers used for bedding plants alone can be bare at various times of the year, so it is a good idea to include a permanent feature that will provide interest when there are noon the bedding plants.
Conifers are the obvious choice, offering a host of different colours, shapes and forms to create different effects. They are usually inexpensive and require relatively little attention. Conical, erect conifers probably offer the best shape for a balanced arrangement.
A varied choice
Other choices for a permanent centre-piece include Box (Buxus sempervirens), which can be trimmed to form many shapes (including a lollipop, a pyramid or a spiral) and Yew (Taxus baccata), which is also a conifer, but can be shaped in the same way. These two plants are fairly slow-growing and require regular trimming, but the effect can be stunning.
There are countless bedding plants that can be used around the central plant to provide seasonal colour and interest. These plants are so diverse that many different styles can be achieved, ranging from a rigid, formal display to a very casual, almost wild feel.
A simple job
Rustic tubs come in many shapes and sizes, but self-assembly versions are probably the most convenient when it comes to transporting the tub home. These tubs are usually simple to assemble, requiring just a hammer and nails to do the job, and are often cheaper than ready-assembled alternatives.
Preparing the Tub
Self-assembly wooden tubs are convenient and easy to put together.
Nail three of the side panels together, using galvanized steel nails and making sure that the feet of the tub form a level base to prevent it wobbling. Follow the maker’s instructions carefully.
When three of the sides have been fixed together, the base panel can be put in place. Slide it into position, making sure that it fits snugly, then fit the remaining side panel. Finally, nail the rounded rim of the tub in place around the top edge to complete the container.
Make sure the tub has adequateholes in the bottom; if not, drill three or four holes, using a 2.5cm (1 in) wood-boring bit. Place some large crocks over the drainage holes to prevent compost being washed out of the tub during watering or heavy rain.
Fill the tub with a good-quality, free-draining compost, to which has been added up to a quarter by volume of horticultural grit. Add enough compost to bring the level within 20cm (8in) of the rim, firming lightly as you go to make sure the compost fills all the corners.
Planting the Tub
Remove the conifer from its pot by turning it upside down and tapping the pot. Sharply. Tease out a few of the larger roots if they have been growing round in circles, then stand the plant in the tub, making sure that the top of the rootball is level with the rim of the tub.
As the bedding plants will have small roots, fill the space around the roots of the conifer with more compost, after checking that the plant is in the centre of the tub. Then fill the tub to about 2.5cm (1in) below the rim with more compost and smooth it out to form a level surface.
If any of the bedding plants, such as the Lantana, have been grown with two or three plants to one pot, it is a good idea to plant these groups intact to prevent disturbance of the roots. However, it will be necessary to split larger groups, which will soon become overcrowded.
Fill the spaces between the Lantana with Petunia plants, having removed them very carefully from their polystyrene strips to reduce the likelihood of root disturbance. If you have chosen more than one colour, arrange the plants to achieve an even distribution of each type.