I need something to distract me during the cold, dark days of January. After the sparkle of Christmas I’m suddenly desperate for it to be spring, but knowing that’s some way off I’ll spend any free time over the coming weeks with my head buried in seed and plant catalogues looking for inspiration for plants to grow this year.
I moved into my garden nearly five years ago and the shrubs and perennials are establishing in the borders. There are so many plants I’d like to grow though, so I’m turning my attention to container displays. I already have a large zinc trough which I bought from the local agricultural shop that sits along the back of the shed wall where it’s shady for most of the day. Here I’ve planted a range of shade-loving ferns. By the kitchen there are two vintage tin baths which I bought at a flea market years ago. They make fantastic planters because they have a good depth which means there’s space for roots to spread out and the soil doesn’t dry out quickly in summer. Over the years these have been planted with vegetables, bulbs or annuals, but they’re now home to a selection of perennials including a compact buddleia, a lilac-flowered scabious and the pretty lilac daisy blooms of Erigeron ‘Wayne Roderick’.
Large containers like these can become miniature gardens with compact shrubs, perennials and bulbs offering year-round colour and interest. There are even trees, such as certain ornamental cherries, acers, Magnolia stellata and apples that have been grafted onto a dwarf rootstock, which will be happy growing in a pot.
This year I plan to buy two more large containers: one for by the shed and another to fill a gap in front of a fence by the patio, so I’m drawing up a list of potential candidates that like plenty of sun. For large pots it’s a good idea to think of them as a scaled down border – think about including something that will add height or year-round structure, then look at a mid-storey with a mid-height perennial or grass and below this include plants that will form a carpet of foliage and flowers to cover the compost. Plants that will tumble over the edges are useful for containers – in a border the sprawl of these plants might become a nuisance but in a pot you can make the most of it as a design feature.
Perennials for the upcoming season
- Salvias are perhaps my favourite perennial because there’s such diversity and the bees love them. I’ve heard lots of good things about one in particular – Salvia ‘Phylllis Fancy’ – so I think this will go on my list.
- Nepetas are fabulous plants, one of the longest-flowering of all the border perennials I grow, and they seem to be super tolerant of dry conditions and sun so I’m going to try the compact cultivar ‘Kit Kat’ in a pot.
- Last year I grew some agastache which were covered in both flowers and bees from June to November, so this year I’m going to grow some more. Two I have my eye on are ‘Little Adder’, a compact version of the popular ‘Black Adder’, and ‘Blue Boa’.
Just looking at all the colourful photos of flowers and thinking about these plans is enough to banish the January blues.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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