Gone to pot

Back in my nursery days one question more than most made me pause to collect my thoughts before answering. What can I grow in a pot?

They were surrounded by about 100,000 plants in perhaps 3500 varieties, all in pots.

What I have come to realise is that for at least some of those people there was a subtext which was that they had no room left in their garden but were driven to buy something and figured they could grow it in a pot at least for the time being. The answer they needed was that almost nothing would grow in a pot, put your money away, don’t buy another plant that you don’t need, no matter how much you want it. There’s never been anyone there to say that to me either.

We grow a lot of plants in pots. Let me take you on a tour of them.

Step out the back door and we have an area of wooden decking that we try to keep clear so that the washing pole can go in the middle of it. I just counted 63 pots plus a further 100 9cm small pots. It faces north so is relatively shady. Right old mix, mostly of the passing through variety, the main exception being the Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’, which has been there for four years and is not even on the decking. Biggest problem here is slugs hiding under the decking and carrying out nocturnal sorties.
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To the right is a lean-to glasshouse on the back wall of the house. It’s a dumping ground for garden chairs, recycling bags and much else, but is also where we keep a range of plants that stay under glass all year, mainly Pelargoniums but also bulbs, Begonias and various other bits; Habranthus, Haemanthus; that sort of thing.

Turn left and left again from the decking and you’re in the glory hole down the side of the house. It’s where the shed is, and the bins, the bags of compost, the shredder and anything awaiting shredding. It’s a mess, into which I move a couple of benches from the greenhouse in summer, mainly so we can put fuchsias out onto them. I made the benches go further with some boards spanning the gap between them. Gone over stuff and convalescent plants tend to end up here.
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This area finishes with a wooden gate out to the front of the house. This is on display, not that many people see it, given that we are at the end of a cul-de-sac. We try to make an effort though, at least in spring and summer. It was tulips and violas in spring, now it’s assorted bedding and other largish plants that stay in pots and get moved out for summer. Agave montana and A. parryi stay out all year. South facing and backed by the white house wall, this is a place for sun lovers.

Come back round the side of the house and flanking the decking to the left is a 10ft x 6ft glasshouse that houses my mist system at one end. The rest of it is taken up with cucumbers in 10 litre pots and chillies in 3 litre pots. Both should have been in pots twice the size but with lots of watering and liquid feeding they are doing pretty well.
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This shot is looking along the outside of the lean-to glasshouse from the decking. Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ probably should have been divided and repotted this spring, it is taking lavish feeding to sustain its growth. Beyond it is Hakonechloa ‘Nicolas’, doing very well in a pot and beyond that is Fuchsia excorticata. All of these stay outside all year. That’s Plectranthus zuluensis in the foreground.
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Behind the Alstroemeria a short flight of steps leads up to what we grandly call a patio. It was laid so we could sit down and have a cup of tea or whatever. Fat chance, it gets filled with Fuchsias every summer, being in shade for a good part of the day. The fence at the back of it was planted with Trachelospermum, which scents our intended seating area to no great purpose. Capsid have been troublesome this year and the fuchsias are not blooming as they should. The Coprosma on the right, behind the Libertia, is also in a pot.
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Take whichever path you like from here and you will need to be careful where you put your feet as there are plants cluttering every route. Most are Fuchsias, we have a lot of them, but there are still late cabbages awaiting planting on the allotment and some chillies that are surplus to requirements and headed to a plant sale in a couple of weeks.

Make it to the top of the garden and you reach Sue’s glasshouse. The picture speaks for itself. I managed to take the picture without noticing the yellow and pink cactus blooms down the right hand side. Too busy not treading on anything.

There’s an overspill area just outside the glasshouse and a narrow shady passage along the back of it. Both are crammed with potted plants.

In front of the glasshouse is a second paved area which was conceived as a seating area. Guess what, it’s full of plants. Some nice stuff there,  x Amarcrinum, Salvia ‘Amistad’, Camellia ‘Show Girl’, some excellent Eucomis.
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Separated from that glasshouse by a small bed of Dahlias is my polytunnel. Most of its contents are camellias, but tomatoes go down the middle path in summer, providing a bit of shade. They are all supposed to be Sungold but the first plant is something else; small red fruits. Like the Cucumbers, I often need to water these three times a day. An automatic watering system is under investigation.
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In the top corner of the garden, at the back of the tunnel, are more Camellias, bigger plants in 10 or 20 litre pots. There are still more in another shady corner further back down the garden. That’s a 20 litre pot of Blechnum tabulare in the front.

That’s most of them. I have no idea how many pots that is in total; it must be several hundred. Takes a bit of looking after, especially in current conditions.

Pretty much all of it is in Sylvagrow with 3-4 kg/cu.m. Osmocote Pro, 6-9 month, 16:11:10 added. This is a wood and bark waste compost which though good, has neither the water or nutrient retaining qualities of peat. More watering means more nutrient leaching requiring more feeding. If I need to supplementary feed I am currently using Nu-Grow, a liquid feed made from blood, fish and bone. With the amount of watering at present, plus a lot of stuff in pots from last year, I’m doing a lot of supplementary feeding. I also used a slow release top dressing on some of the older plants back in the spring.

8 thoughts on “Gone to pot

  1. Crickey! All those pots would give me nightmares! The plants all look very healthy though. What you don’t elaborate on is why you have so many pots. Do you grow them for other people? Or are you still a nursery man growing them for your business? Or is your garden just to full to put any more plants in the ground?

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    1. The main reason is that we both love plants and cant get enough and most of the pots are of things that wouldn’t grow or survive winter in the garden. That covers Fuchsias, Succulents, Pelargoniums and a lot of oddities. Then we propagate them, to get a young replacement plant, or because it has lots of offsets and it seems wrong to dump them, and you take 5 cuttings because they often don’t take, then they all root and you pot them because it seems a shame to throw them away, we can give them away or do a car boot or sell plants at a craft sale etc. etc. Camellias are another, longer story, for another day.

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  2. “The answer they needed was that almost nothing would grow in a pot, put your money away, don’t buy another plant that you don’t need, no matter how much you want it. “

    I need someone to say that to me! When I moved here all my plants were in pots as I only had a tiny ‘balcony’ and steps in my old place. I resolved to get them out into the ground and use pots only for those plants which need to come inside in winter. Oh, and tulips in spring. I was hoping that being so far south-west that wouldn’t be very many. But at the front of our house we only have a granite ledge. No planting areas, so I have been collecting shade loving plants to go into pots there. Fuchsias are my main choice. I love them and they cope with shady conditions. We shall see how they fare with no direct sun. More pots in the back as I have discovered that I can’t grow much more in the raised borders (too many old tree roots etc). Sigh…

    I enjoyed the wander around your plot – you definitely have pot overload. But I love it all. Especially Sue’s glasshouse. Not so much the cacti, but the succulents. Oh, yes. Now there’s another collection I could be happy with. In pots. Of course.

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    1. Coming up with excuses for what is, essentially, a fairly harmless form of addiction, is just too easy. Working on a nursery satisfied the addiction without cluttering up my garden; things are much worse now.

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