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Gone to pot

Take a “no gumboots required” approach and fill those pots on your decks and pathways

Late winter usually brings a soggy experience when working in the garden. Working wet soil is not only unpleasant but damages the soil structure in the process. Instead, turn your energy to container gardening – no gumboots required but plenty of fresh air and a good work-out heaving around plants, pots and potting mix. Plant up new containers or revamp existing ones to give plants a boost and ensure they get off to a fine start once spring has sprung.

Cull the clutter After casting a discerning eye over my neglected plant pot collection, I realised it was well overdue for a facelift. So I spent an entire afternoon emptying my pots, planting their contents in the garden and ditching cracked, moss-laden old pots. And I have to say, the result is a less cluttered, more pleasing appearance.

**Bigger is better

**Large pots are more easily managed than small ones. Plants live longer, healthier, lives in large pots, plus they need a lot less watering. Large pots also make an excellent focal point or feature and look stylish. The downside is that large pots can be pricey. Terracotta “Bill and Ben” pots are the most reasonably priced but they dry out quickly in summer, so it pays to coat them with Terraseal. Glazed pots hold moisture well and do not need to be coated on the inside. The more pricey pots can be seen as an investment as they’ll last for years.

**Thinking small

**Small containers are great for seasonal annuals, little succulents and bulbs. Rather than dotting them around the garden, try grouping small pots together with one or more larger containers, to create an interesting textural composition. Remember that small containers may need watering twice daily in the heat of summer.

**Getting it right

**Ask any experienced gardener what their advice to an amateur is and it’s likely to be, “plant the right plant in the right place”. Containers in shaded areas need shade-loving plants, those in hot sunny areas are best planted with succulents and so on. Using a good-quality proprietary container mix is also important. Never use garden soil in pots – it’s too heavy, will not drain effectively and may carry disease or insect pests. Specific mixes for subtropicals, orchids and succulents are also available. And remember to pick the right-sized pot.

**A touch of glass

**Finishing touches are another important aesthetic. oulching with fine bark, pebbles, shells or coloured glass stones improves the finished look of a container. Large containers also lend themselves to associate planting of groundcovers, such as mondo grass, and succulents. Alternatively, herbs or colourful annuals can be planted and changed seasonally. Sitting containers on pot feet is also highly recommended to protect decks from rotting and paths from discolouration.

Planting tips

  • Place pots in or near their permanent position before planting.

  • Sit containers on top of pot feet to allow thorough drainage, protecting decks, etc.

  • Place stones or crocks in base of pot before filling with potting mix.

  • When you’ve finished planting, the level of the potting mix should be about 3cm below the pot’s rim to allow watering without water spilling over sides.

  • oulch with stones, shells, coloured glass pebbles, etc, or plant groundcover around the main specimen in large pots.

oaintenance tips

  • Prune leggy growth on shrubby plants to encourage compact bushy growth.

  • Trim dead leaves off clumping plants such as flax, astelia etc.

  • Deadhead flowering plants regularly to promote further flowering and help prevent disease.

  • Check regularly for pests and disease, spray if necessary.

  • Fertilise newly planted pots in summer with three-month controlled-release pellets.

  • Fertilise established pots with six-month controlled release pellets in spring.

  • Fertilise all pots with liquid fertiliser weekly over spring and summer.

  • Water thoroughly by gently and evenly applying water to the top of the pot until it appears through drainage hole – only then will water have entirely infiltrated it.

  • oove containers around to create new compositions and keep your garden displays looking fresh and vibrant.

Potted plants for…

SCENT Daphne – Boronia – osmanthus – Gardenia – Frangipani

SHADED AREASCamellias – Azaleas – Rhododendrons – Ferns – Hostas

DRAoATIC FoLIAGE Yucca – Aloe – Agave – Astelia – Xeronema (Poor Knights lily)

SoFT FoLIAGECarex – Anemanthele (gossamer grass) – Acacia ‘Limelight’ – Asplenium (hen and chicken fern) – Hakonechloa (Japanese hakone grass)

CoLoURFUL FoLIAGECoprosma – Flax – Loropetalum ‘Razzle Dazzle’ – Aucuba (shade) – Pseudowintera (horopito)

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