Whatever size your garden, whether it’s contemporary or cottagey, there’s always a place for a pot.
They’ll lead your eye to an arresting view, they’re a punctuation point to stop and smell the roses, a chance to bring bold colour to shady corners, the perfect pointer to a set of steps.
And if your green space is a balcony, they’ll become your garden - scented blooms and vibrant herbs giving infinite pleasure to the long, summer evenings. Clusters of small pots look stunning planted with single specimens, while a large container - an olive jar or a large, ornate, terracotta planter - can become the centrepiece for your whole scheme.
Garden designer Kate Durr is an RHS Gold medal-winner, Creative Director of Highgrove Talking Gardens and founder of Wiltshire-based Kate Durr Garden Design. She lives with her actor husband Jason Durr and their three children at their Wiltshire farmhouse, tending a six-acre plot, including an ornamental kitchen garden, a flock of Zwartbles sheep and newly-arrived hens.
Here, she shares her advice on planting schemes for Holloways pots, which will take you from glorious summer scent through to structural interest on chillier autumn days. “Containers are great for every garden,” she says. “And the best thing about using pots is it doesn’t matter what the soil is like in your garden.
“You can have the heaviest, claggiest clay - and pots of beautiful Mediterranean plants which love sandy, free-draining soil. “They’re also wonderful for brightening up difficult, shady areas of your garden.”
CREATE A FOCAL POINT
“From a design perspective, pots and planters can be used as punctuation points around the garden,” says Kate. “This works particularly well with large containers. They encourage a journey around your garden, leading to you to a resting place, somewhere to enjoy a vantage point.
“They can also be a destination, particularly if, next to a bench, you have a pot of scented plants. “It’s the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of tea.” Equally beautiful is a large urn, she says, which needs no further adornment. “They’re great for placing in a challenging area of the garden, under a tree for example, where nothing else will grow,” she adds.
MAKE A STATEMENT
“I like big containers that make a grand statement,” Kate reveals. “A carefully-considered statement piece planted with something statuesque and balanced like Salvia Anastas or Salvia Wendy’s Wish. “And when they’ve gone over, the spent seed heads still look fantastic. From a distance, their dark purple colour looks like they’re still in flower.:
In statement terracotta planters, like Holloways’ large Florence or Italianate pots, Kate loves to create an Elizabethan-style ruff of Erigeron Karvinskianus - Mexican Flebane - with its mass of pink and white daisy-like flowers. “It’s brilliant, because it’ll start flowering in April and go on through to November.” She also favours the tall, elegant flowerheads of perennial Buddleja Buzz with its long flowering season and butterfly-friendly blooms.
“For gardeners who want to enjoy their gardens - barbecue and sit in the sun with a glass of wine rather than having to be deadheading all the time - planting an Holloways Garden Antiques stone trough with something like Calibrachoa Black Cherry - mini petunias - are the perfect solution,” says Kate.
“They’ll sprawl over the edge of a beautiful old planter or terracotta pot and they look amazing.”
Kate recommends successional planting in pots - planting bulbs like Tulip Spring Green underneath long-lasting froth like Erigeron Karvinskianus and taller salvia for spring, summer and autumn interest.
Similarly, Tete a Tete daffodils or Paper White Narcissi will make a stunning spring show in a cluster of terracotta pots or old farm planters, making way for brighter perennials.
“Just be careful of the plants you choose to plant on top of your bulbs,” Kate warns. “They need room to come through.”
COLOUR ME BEAUTIFUL
Pots allow even traditionalists - devotees of gentle pink, white and purple cottagey schemes - to experiment with bolder colour combinations.
Kate advocates lemon and deep purple and colour wheel opposites for a dazzling burst of colour.
“Containers mean you can use colours you wouldn’t usually turn to on a smaller scale - and even a small dose of colour can have a great impact,” she says. “It’s great to experiment with pots - and if it doesn’t work, you can dig it up.”
Kate recommends a terracotta pot planted with a ruff of Calibrachoa Tangerine Punch paired with Agapanthus Navy Blue.
“Agapanthus love being in pots,” she says. “They like their roots to be constricted and the combination of orange and purple is incredible.”
Filling a terrace with scented pots makes for magical summer evenings full of heady fragrance.
Try Zaluzianskya ovata ‘Star Balsam’, a South African night-scented phlox. “It’s not very showy,” says Kate. “But it will fill your terrace with the most incredible scent.
“I love Pelargoniums too. They can be in a little pot in a secret spot, and smell wonderful when you to brush against.”
Pots and troughs planted with herbs close to where you’re cooking - whether that’s your barbecue area or your kitchen door - are easy to sow and simple to keep.
“I always have rosemary to hand in my pots, Miss Jessop’s Upright,” says Kate. “Pots are fabulous for herbs because they love free-draining soil. “As with all plants in pots, you have to commit to watering them, but it’s worth it.
“Mint is rampant, but more easily containable in a pot, and at this time of year I like to plant chervil and coriander in pots as they bolt so easily in spring. “And they look particularly handsome in galvanised pots or copper planters.”
A POT FOR EVERY GARDEN
When Kate moved into her Wiltshire farmhouse, she discovered a collection of animal water troughs and feed containers perfect for planting up. “They’re fantastic,” she says. “They’re suited perfectly for country style.
“But choose your setting carefully. Make sure you pick the right container for the right spot. “Fantastically sleek linear containers look phenomenal planted with grasses.
“They’re very popular with my clients for a contemporary look, and they’re great for planting groups of glasses together for impact. ”The golden fronds and architectural stature of Stipa Gigantea is a favourite of Kate’s for contemporary settings, along with the strap-like leaves Agapanthus.
“At Highgrove, HRH has a wonderful collection of pots on the terrace where he loves to sit in the evenings,” says Kate. “They’re very traditionally planted, and it suits very much the style of the house.”
The next Highgrove Talking Gardens event takes place in April 2021. For the star-studded line-up click here
Kate Durr Garden Design can be found on Instagram at @KateDurrGardenDesign and on Twitter @KateCharman
KATE DURR'S TOP TEN CONTAINER PLANTS
Erigeron Karvinskianus (Mexican Fleabane) - long-flowering perennial providing a cuff of fluffy white & pink daisies, April - November
Salvia Amistad - Statuesque, tender perennial reaching 1.5m with almost back stems and deep dark purple flowers.Dramatic and super long flowering June - November
Salvia Wendy’s Wish - another long-flowering Salvia, reaching 80cm, fabulous hot magenta pink with a citrus fragrance.
Calibrachoa - Half hardy annual - miniature Petunia, that needs no deadheading, producing cascades of colour. ‘Can Can Black Cherry’ velvety black or ‘Crackling Fire” Glowing flame-like orange - very on trend.
Buddlea ‘Buzz’ series - Deciduous shrub, a smaller range of Buddleas ideally suited to containers., reaching 1.2m and covered in generous honey-scented flower-panicles, beloved of butterflies and pollinators ‘Indigo’ and ‘Red Velvet’ are may favourites.
Zaluzianskya Ovata - ‘Star Balsalm’ - Tender Perennial, a quiet little plant with an enormous fragrance that will scent a terrace on a summers evening evening.
Night-Scented Stock ’Starlight Sensation’ - I sow this plant in containers in March and from May to October is fills my terrace with a heady perfume that is always remarked on by visitors. Truly wonderful. Sow it every 2/3 weeks to enjoy a non-stop fragrance fest all summer!
Hakonechloa Macra - a wonderful Japanese grass that forms elegant, arching cascades of foliage over the edge of containers - wonderful for contemporary settings, especially if planted en masse in a large vessel.
Agapanthus ’Navy blue’ - with architectural strap-like leaves, Agapanthus works beautifully in modern, minimal gardens. ’Navy Blue’ has violet blooms which tone beautifully with Corten steel or galvanised planters.
Hosta ‘Halcyon’ - a fabulous glaucous-leaved perennial preferring a shaded spot for its lanced-shaped leaves. Spikes of lavender flowers appear in late summer - a star in urban or country gardens.