Garden Planting in Sinks and Troughs

Old stone sinks and troughs offer wonderful opportunities for creating miniature raised gardens, adding interest at different levels with a wealth of alpines and dwarf plants.

Although they are increasingly difficult to find at a reasonable price, old stone sinks and drinking troughs make very attractive containers for miniature raised gardens. The weathered patina of a genuine old sink will blend harmoniously with garden paving and walls, but even newly-made or ceramic sinks and troughs can be treated to give them a pleasantly aged appearance.

A landscape in miniature

The great advantage of sink gardens is that they can be positioned at any height to suit either the location or the gardener. Elderly and disabled gardeners find these raised gardens much easier to work on, while children will enjoy the small scale and the challenge of helping to create a miniature landscape.

Sinks and troughs can be positioned to create focal points, or to emphasize changes of level or surface. They are perfect for terraces and patios, where the tiny details of creeping and dwarf plants can be appreciated while sitting nearby. In such a situation, they will usually enjoy full sun, introducing interest and colour throughout the year.

Another benefit of sink gardens is that they enable plants to be grown and experimented with which would not be happy in the soil of the main garden: lime-loving plants which would not survive in a highly acid soil, or lime-haters in a container filled with acidic compost.

An essential requirement

Watering is vital in sink gardens, as the roots cannot go very deep to find moisture. Water frequently in dry weather, never allowing the soil to dry out completely, otherwise it will shrink away from the sides. If this does happen, pricking the surface helps the water to penetrate.

Over-feeding will cause plants to grow too bushy for a miniature setting, so only apply fertilizer sparingly if the plants begin to look weak.


Old deep ceramic sinks can be transformed by applying a layer of PVA adhesive, followed by a mixture of 2 parts peat, 1 part sand and 1 part cement pressed onto the surface thickly and built up in layers to form a natural look. Another way to instantly ‘age’ new containers is to paint them with sour milk, plain yoghurt or a specially-prepared solution sold by garden ornament manufacturers.

It is important to raise containers, either on bricks, blocks or timber to ensure adequate drainage.

Place a crock over the drainage hole, then add a layer of crocks or pebbles. Cover with a layer of moisture-retentive peat, followed by a stony soil mixture suitable for the types of plant to be grown.


A wealth of choice

A wide variety of rock plants, alpines and succulents is available in every colour and texture. Specialist nurseries offer hundreds of plants as well as advice on the types of growing conditions and soil they need. Some of the cushion-forming plants which grow into dense mounds are: Dianthus, Draba, Saxifrage, Linaria, Phlox, Hypericum and Gypsophila. Miniature Roses can look charming on a patio; choose varieties like red ‘Maid Marion’, pink Rosa foulettii, yellow ‘Bantam’ and pink and white ‘Cinderella’.

22. July 2013 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Fruit Trees | Comments Off on Garden Planting in Sinks and Troughs


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