31 August 2006 - 1:00am

Pretty pots

What a summer! We seem to be either frying in the heat or batoning down the hatches for another gale. And I’m really, really sick of watering pots and newly planted plants accompanied with a sense of guilt that I’m using a scarce resource. One thing I have tried to do this year is be a bit more sensible with the number and location of pots. Reading through the magazines and books on the subject, here are a few tips I’ve found work well to keep your pots of plants looking good without too much trouble:

Plant up large rather than small pots, and really water them well. A big pot can take minutes rather than seconds to get wet right down to the roots at the bottom and, if you do the job thoroughly, it doesn’t dry out quickly. Carry on watering until you see insects and water escaping out of the bottom of the pot.
Put pots in groups together rather than singly, again, this will prevent them drying out and save you several trips with a can or hose. I have a group of hostas and busy lizzies in pots in the gentle shade by the front door. There I can keep an eye on them and water them easily and, with the help of a few handfuls of grit on the ground and Vaseline applied round the rims of the pots, I can keep all but the most athletic and hungry of slugs at bay. They look great too.
If you are planting a shrub or small tree that will be in the pot for years, use a decent compost like John Innes number 3. It has more nutrients to feed the plant for longer and is heavy, preventing the pot from toppling over. We have a wisteria in a large pot which is eventually going to be a standard which we have treated in this way. If you are putting tender plants such as geraniums, agave or other sun lovers, add a handful or two of grit to the compost to improve drainage. Multi purpose composts are often not very free draining which some plants don’t like.
Put the pot in the right position, its no good putting a pot of geraniums in deep shade, or a fern in the sun, they won’t thrive and will look awful.
Feed your plants; they can’t get their roots into really deep soil and so rely on you to give them a decent meal. Most plants including bedding plants and tomatoes seem to like a liquid feed such as phostrogen.
Be bold, a few large pots generously planted look much better than lots of little ones. It’s the bulb season coming up, so now is the time to get big clumps of daffodils in pots.

In June we happened to be in Leeds so took the opportunity to visit York Gate Garden. It’s only an acre and is in a suburb north of Leeds called Adel (LS16 8DW). It’s a real gem, set out in the Hidcote style with garden ‘rooms’ of different character. The garden is open April to September on Thursday, Sundays and Bank holiday Mondays in the afternoon, tel 0113 267 8240.

Happy gardening!