Growing Lilies in Garden Pots and Planters

Growing Lilies in Garden Pots and Planters

Growing Lilies in Garden Pots and Planters

One of the most pleasing aspects of container pot gardening is that it allows us to grow many desirable things which might otherwise be denied us because of the nature of our garden soil. For instance, if the soil is not suitable for all the lovely range of lime-haters such as azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, etc., our large planters and pots can be filled with suitable lime-free compost to suit them, and we can give them good drainage too.

I have found this is the very best way of growing lilies, because in the confines of a deep container I can provide them with the right soil (three parts good loam, one part peat, and two parts coarse sand) and keep them free from their deadly enemies the slugs. And there is no danger of sticking a fork right through them during the months they are under cover below the surface. As with most plants, a garden pot or container displays them beautifully, so that they appear like a magnificent growing flower arrangement.

In spring, patio garden pots and planters, can make a fine home for dwarf hardy cyclamen or any bulbs large and small, different gardening pots being brought into view as others ‘go over’, or else if we have only one permanent pot the bulbs can be removed and replanted in the garden to die down.

Last year I was impressed by a matched planting of window flower boxes, and terrace pots; all were planted richly and thickly with the same blue scillas. The white walls of an old timbered cottage made the perfect setting. Later in the year, hardy fuchsias took over the flowering; their slim bare branches had not been noticeable in the spring.

Pure white Christmas roses are a delight in the porch at the home of one of my friends from December onward, and sweet-scented osmanthus near the doorway is another idea to bring a quiet pleasure to a cold day in early spring.

Although you can grow almost anything you fancy in garden pots and planters, most people settle for summer geraniums or annuals. I urge you to explore the wide field of hardy plants. A good nursery catalogue is invaluable when deciding what to grow. One of my favourites, which I consider the perfect plant for any outdoor pot, is the ordinary garden form of sedum spectabile. This makes an interesting plant at all times of the year. Its grey-green succulent leaves come early, studding the pot with low rosettes which continue growing right through spring and into summer, when they begin to show their flat fresh green closely-clustered heads of buds and then the flowers, which mostly open pink. Sedum spectabile Autumn Joy is particularly good, giving more richly-coloured flowers. Mass the plants very close. I leave the old flowerheads on through the winter, for they really do look like chocolate-brown flowers, cutting them off when they begin to get raggy and worn by the early spring. There is a lovely green and pale yellow variegated sort listed by some nurseries and a purple-bronze finer leafed form which is not quite so good alone in a pot but mixes well with a yellow, green, or white colour scheme.

A novel idea, even for a balcony, is to take a big tub and make in it, a tall ‘wigwam’ of canes, tied together at the top with rot-proof string or wire and then grow tomatoes or runner beans up them, or else Cobaea scandens (the cup and saucer vine), climbing nasturtiums, or Ipomoea Heavenly Blue whose great trumpets of fowers open fresh every morning. Such a tub looks well on top of a coal bunker or dustbin if there is absolutely nowhere else to site it.

Any container can be used to create a miniature scenic garden, if that sort of thing appeals. Small shrubs may be used to suggest trees, rocks become mountains, and the tiny leaves and flowers of dwarf alpines are in scale. It could be pleasing to grow bonsai trees in such a situation. A light covering of fine stone chippings, gravel, or peat tidies up the top of an open pot and makes it look cared for. Small pebbles or shells from the seaside not only look good around a potted dwarf conifer in a cottage garden setting, for instance, but they also have the advantage (like gravel and chippings) of keeping the soil a little moist in summer.

Things which smell nice are lovely to have close to the house, and containers planted with stock are magnificent. I specially favour Brompton stock, which make fine pot plants. I sow the seed in seed-boxes in spring and more in June, transplant the seedlings into pots, and finally into the big containers the following spring ready for flowering. In the north it is probably best to keep the young plants in a cold frame during winter, or better still, the sunroom. Some, I find, go on to become an almost permanent feature in an outdoor container but eventually they grow woody-stemmed and straggly and must be replaced. Heliotrope, mignonette, and many more flowers can be raised from seed to enjoy at eye-level from a deckchair in the sun, and with container gardening we do have time to sit in the sun among our growing things.

Many young trees and shrubs will happily sit in big garden pots and planters to decorate an area for years. Buy them as container-grown plants and simply transfer them at any time of year to your decorative pots. I once had a eucalyptus which began life growing in a tub for two years before taking up a permanent position in the garden. Hydrangeas take a lot of beating for a spot out of full sunlight; for early flower you can buy them as house plants and, when winter frosts are over, transplant them to outdoor containers.

Other first-rate subjects for very large planters, pots and tubs are the green and gold evergreen Elaeagnus pungens maculata and the evergreen-foliaged elaeagnus ebbingei, which has a silver underside to its leaves. Skimmia and aucuba (spotted laurel might also be considered. Grey foliage plants adapt extremely well to container life; senecio greyii (laxifolius), for example, if well cut back every March will make a delightful bush with golden daisy flowers in summer; it looks particularly good in terracotta. Variegated hollies. miniature conifers, will all give great pleasure in a terrace pot. Try to mix and match their colors, shapes, and textures. Conifers, by the way, can be kept compact for growing in garden pots by pinching the new growths back.

Many climbers can be grown in a garden pots and planters, such as tubs or big garden pots, and might be the answer to the problem of having no flower bed near a house wall. Tropaeolum canariense (Canary creeper), Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan), with yellow, white, and orange flowers – often with a black eye -clematis, golden and variegated hops, vines, honeysuckle, sweet peas, passiflora (the passion flower), which is generally sold in pots, and variegated ivies will all climb, but they will also trail if not staked and in a very tall container on a plinth this can be very striking indeed. If the growth gets too full and bushy, careful pruning will control it.

If you look around and observe what other gardeners are doing with their garden pots and planters, you will see that the best effects are won where there is good contrast of shape, form, or colour, and where each container is in harmony with its surroundings. I have seen, for example, bold scarlet no-nonsense geraniums planted profusely in large stone urns, where they are seen as splendid plantings against a refreshing backdrop of green well-tended lawns and sea. Not everyone has the sea at the back door, but some of us have walls or balustrades so that a pot or urn can be placed high to be seen silhouetted against the blue sky.

Stately homes are a really good place to see examples of such plantings.  Enjoy studying the shapes of garden containers and, when arranging them outdoors, set rounds against rectangular shapes, tall slim pots against short fat ones, and so on, so that they look really pleasing to the eye. A pot placed against a plain wall might for example, stand in a mock alcove constructed from trellis. If the wall were white, the trellis might be painted soft grey, blue, or sage green, even a quite bright colour in some situations. In a small town garden a mirror can be fixed in the alcove to give the illusion of a larger garden. It rarely pays to try to copy slavishly something you have seen elsewhere; whatever inspires you will probably need to be adapted to your own situation – and in any case it is always more interesting to let your own imagination get to work.

03. October 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Container Gardening, Gardening Ideas, Plants & Trees | Tags: | Comments Off on Growing Lilies in Garden Pots and Planters


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