Ann-Marie’s summery pots

If you click on the various pictures below (just there, on the left at the bottom of the page. Yes, just there…) you will find little films where the delicious Ann-Marie Powell talks you through her plans for pots.

Film: Ann-Marie Powell

Everybody loves containers and every garden is improved by a few well placed and well planted pots scattered around the place. The best thing is that, no matter how small your garden may be, there is always room for a pot. Even balconies and tiny flat will have space for a window box or hanging basket.

Before you can plant anything, you need to choose your pot. Do you want classic? Traditional? Sleek modern? Warm timber? or retro metal? All have their place and it depends entirely on your personal garden style, be brave and give it a go. There are so many things you can use to keep your containers cheerful throughout the summer: herbs, vegetables, shrubs, perennials, grasses, trees, fruit bushes etc etc etc. Or you can go for the traditional bedding plants. Look around and see what you can find. Here are some suggestions…

  • Pelargonium sidoides – An extraordinarily light and elegant variety with long limbs and delicate flowers. Blooms from about may until November with slightly bluish foliage.
  • Lathyrus Mrs Bernard Jones – Give your containers a bit of height with a climbing sweet pea. Needs a support of some sort but will give vases of flowers and a sweet scent all summer.
  • Orlaya grandiflora – A very pretty white umbellifer. Flowers over finely cut filigree foliage and will add lightness and zip to borders and containers.

The hanging basket is a visible embodiment of good old fashioned summer colour. Pubs, lampposts, homes and shop fronts all benefit from a splash of dash. And they are so simple: all you need is an available wall. They do, however, dry out very quickly so make sure you keep them well fed and watered.

As well as flowers the perfect plants for hanging baskets are Tumbling tomatoes and strawberries. Both will thrive in baskets or containers. See the shopping list for a couple more options.

Herbs are so easy: and also so essential. Everybody’s cooking needs herbs: fresh is always better than dried and home grown is better than anything. It is unbelievably simple to grow the basic kitchen herbs in either borders or pots.

  • Thyme – Use whole sprigs with roast chickens or lamb meats and it is a staple herb for many Mediterranean recipes. Low growing and very pretty it works well in paving cracks where the scent is released when bruised. In the middle ages it was used as part of a ritual enabling you to see fairies. Antiseptic properties so gargled tea is good for sore throats.
  • Sage – great in stuffing, to lift the taste of liver or simply to cook with eggs. Standard culinary sage has grey/green slightly leathery leaves. There is also a purple variety which makes an excellent garden border plant.
  • Mint – indispensible for tea, for mint sauce, for adding zip to new potatoes or even just as a garnish for ice cream. This is the perfect pot plant as, if planted in a border, it will run wild and crazy through everything. Keep it confined.

Not every garden is blessed with loads of sunshine. In fact most people have a shady corner somewhere that could do with livening up a bit. It is easy to find things that grow in full sun but often the plants for darker places are more delicate and sophisticated. Dryopteris filix mas – This is pretty much the most resilient and tough variety of fern you can get your hands on. Dicentra spectabilis, – In our video Ann-Marie uses the white variety of this extremely pretty plant. This is the pink version. Tiarella cordifolia – The common name is foam flower because of the frothy flower heads that rear over finely veined and well marked leaves.

Ann-Marie loves a bit of succulence. You can tell by the expression on her face. These neat little things are very architectural and well behaved – just like Ann-Marie. Just remember that most of them are not reliably hardy and should be brought under glass for winter.

  • Echeveria – A very pretty rosette forming plant which will expand quickly to fill a pot. Propagates easily by breaking off the offsets. Needs sharp drainage.
  • Aeonium Zwartkop – People become a little obsessed with collecting this family of plants. This is one of the most popular cousins with glossily dark purple foliage.
  • Agave americana – If you are lucky enough to live in a very sheltered, very mild coastal garden then you grow a big version of these succulents. This is big, fleshy, spiky and spectacular.