vendredi 26 mars 2010

How to Choose an Pot for your Exterior Plants

Your choice of pots will largely depend on your own individual taste and budget. If you're buying more than one pot, it looks more effective if you match your pots and buy them in several sizes to make a nice group. Large ones with several plants arranged with some small can look better than lots of small ones.

Material:em> Porous materials generally dry out more quickly than others meaning that you'll have to water your plants more often.

Quality:em> Invest in quality pots made with quality materials which will age well. A terracotta pot, for example, will change it's colour, acquire an 'aged' look over time which will add charm to your garden.

Pot ou cache-pot?em> If you like to change your decor regularly, don't plant directly into your pots, use them as 'cache-pots', that is, keep the plants in their original plastic container and put that container into your cache-pot. If your cache-pot has no drainage holes or if you cover any drainage holes, when you water your plants, the excess water dripping down from the interior pot will stay in the cache-pot providing a good source of humidity if you are going away for a short break in summer for example.

Beware in winter, however, don't leave the water to build up for a long time because the roots of the plant will rot if they are left in water. So you'll need to empty your cache-pot if it has no drainage holes. Your plant also needs air so if the roots are constantly submerged in water, it will stop the air getting to them, this will also apply if you cover the drainage holes.

Plastic v terracotta v pottery,varnished, ceramic v metal pots v wood:
Plastic Is light so it won't weigh down your balcony and it's easier to transport the pot once full. It will hold water and air in the pot for longer. There are a myriad of colours available. BUT plastic is not great for very cold or very hot situations. It can become discoloured quickly and doesn't age very well and poor quality plastic cracks easily. It's impermiability is a minus for some plants that need air around their roots.

Terracotta:em>Is a traditional quality material which ages well, it allows the air to pass and doesn't keep plants too humid. BUT for some plants and in some climates it dries too quickly meaning that you need to water more frequently. It is heavy especially when full and one must be careful not to exceed certain weight limits on balconies or terraces. Thinner terracotta pots can crack in winter frost. Some are guaranteed as frost resistant.

Pottery, varnished, Ceramic:Quality materials that look beautiful in all manner of attractive, vibrant colours that can be co-ordinated with the vegetation. Pottery keeps humidity better than terracotta. The pot does not age and will keep the same colour and look. it just needs a wash with water from time to time. BUT these pots are heavy and have the same constraints as the heavy terracotta pots. Pottery can also be more sensitive to knocks and layers of varnish can get chipped off easily. Not all pots of this type survive winter frosts but the thicker ones are more likely to do so.

I had some gorgeous varnished pots on my stairs - bright red and black alternating. I have one left - my family have accidentally kicked and toppled some and the others have cracked in the frost:-( Much as I was attracted by the same pots with their deep colours in the garden centre last week, I had to resist!

Metal and Zinc:Pots are light, posing no problems for balconies and easy to transport and change an arrangement. Normally they don't have drainage holes so they are best used as cache-pots (although I drill the IKEA zinc pots to make drainage holes in the bottom, it's very fast and easy). They heat up very quickly which may burn a plant if the pot is in a particularly hot climate in a sunny spot or may be great in a cooler spot. BUT they can get dented very easily and it's not easy to regain their original shape once dented. If they are not good quality they may not be well soldered together and might come apart at the seams, particularly if they are large and contain a lot of earth, which will exert a large amount of pressure on the sides of the pot.

Wood: Wood is an ideal material for plants that need a peat based compost (more of this in the coming weeks) because the wood doesn't heat up too quickly and keeps the plants cool. BUT wood does decompose pretty quickly, even if the wood is treated. It's better to use wooden pots as cache-pots or line them with a plastic liner before planting (although then you lose the drainage aspect).

Hope that's helped you to make an important and sometimes expensive decision. Have fun choosing!

mercredi 24 mars 2010

Here's my neigbour's almond tree. It will be sooo pretty in my neigbourhood soon. Click on the pic to see the full beauty! My cherry has still not bloomed and it's usually all over by the end of March. Spring really is late this year. Hope this means we'll have a great summer!
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dimanche 21 mars 2010

Ode to Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils

The Daffodils, William Wordsworth

This week our first daffodil burst into flower. Now we have a group just underneath the forsythia which has also burst into golden yellow flowers. I'm so pleased this little tableau at the bottom of my garden has worked out, I can see it from my kitchen window. I planted the daffodils a few years ago and the forsythia hadn't been pruned for years when we moved here and didn't flower any longer. I've pruned it hard for a few years now and this year it is covered in flowers. The hard work has finally paid off!

ps This photo is of daffodils at Derwentwater in the Lake District, UK. I held the record for swimming Derwentwater for many years.

samedi 20 mars 2010

A Living Wall in your Home

Here's a link sent to me by Diane.

Waterproof but breathable, flexible containers made from recycled materials for you to make your very own living wall. Lovely photos on the website and the naked women lying around are quirky (ok so that's got all the male readers clicking onto the link). You can use woolly pockets inside and out and it states they are waterproof so you don't need to worry about your floor getting mouldy or drips. Apparently because they are breathable, once the plant senses its roots getting towards the air, the plant automatically stops growing and this is called 'air pruning' - I'd never heard this term before. Careful not to overwater or use soil that is not absorbent enough, this will cause leaks. You can plant the pockets with any plant you choose.

An unusual solution for indoor gardens, tricky spaces (look at the shop front photo) or for those of you who really want a living wall at home.

ps they ship internationally

mercredi 17 mars 2010

Growing in containers Part 1

Just about any plant may be grown in a container throughout it's entire life.

Growing your plants in containers provides you with a few options that are not possible with plantings in the ground:

1. The ability to move the containers around is perhaps the biggest advantage. As the seasons and the sun's position changes, you can move your plant to a sunnier or shady spot to fit the needs of the plant. You will also be able to move plants into the 'limelight' when they come into bloom, or into the background somewhere when they are finished.
2. You will be able to grow acid loving plants in an area of alkaline soil and vice versa.

Remember though, that when you are growing plants in pots or planters, those plants are much more dependent on you to provide their growing needs. They are in a limited amount of soil, with their roots restricted, and exposed to the elements far more than if they were garden grown. It is important for the plant's health that pay close attention to watering and feeding requirements of the plant.

Plants in containers will dry out much sooner and need watering more often. To determine when the plant needs watering, stick your finger down into the soil and if is dry water the plant thoroughly. Because frequent watering will wash the plant food out of the soil, and the plant will utilize the limited soil nutrients they will be depleted much more rapidly, so a regular feeding program should be established according to the type of plant. During the growing season, either a slow release type plant food should be used or a soluble complete fertilizer should be used every two weeks. ALWAYS follow the manufacturers recommendations.

Here's a little composition I planted in October, that's beginning to look nice. Three garden canes in a pyramid held together with twine in a cheap IKEA terracotta pot, a nice ivy planted in the middle and crocus bulbs in one colour planted all around. The ivy hasn't had a chance to grow yet but soon it will be wrapping itself around the canes and making a pretty all year round green pyramid. I'll be planting some small summer bulbs soon so that there will be colour all year round. I display it in the front garden.

mardi 16 mars 2010

Going potty!

Want to cheer up an empty space? Don't want to/can't plant in the ground? Dull courtyard? Sad entrance way? Empty balcony full of small pots with dead plants in them? It's never been a better time to choose some flowerpots and plant them up. There is so much choice, it's just a case of looking around. I've done some looking for you: Just in two shops so far, we have these Habitat concrete pots in muted colours and various sizes. Or the small 50's influenced IKEA pots at 2E50 you can spread them around on a low wall or a ground floor windowsill, instant brightener, as are these lovely green rubber pots from Habitat! Or these ribbed fawn pots from IKEA. Or these elegant black zinc Habitat containers. Or the zingy pink and grey ones. Or the IKEA zippy green and red ones. Or these funky modern angled white pots from Habitat. Or the classic vibrant blue Habitat...the choice is yours.

Your display will look more effective if you use the same pots and colours in different sizes or replace lots of small pots with one larger container with a few plants in it.

You'll need some old terracotta smashed into pieces (wear goggles whilst you smash it and put it between two layers of cardboard so the pieces don't fly everywhere) or some billes d'argille (little balls sold in bags in garden centres) in the bottom of the pot. If the container you've chosen doesn't have a hole in the bottom for drainage, put your plant in a slightly smaller thin plastic flowerpot and then inside your container. Raise it slightly inside the container (put it on top of 3 large stones or some terracotta) so it's not touching the bottom of the larger container. That way it won't be sitting in water when the winter comes or it rains (most plants do not like their roots constantly in water, particularly bamboo). Fill up with earth specially produced for containers and choose your plant.

A shortish job that will bring lasting effects and pleasure. Remember, if you're buying terracotta, stone or cement pots, they are really heavy so best to take help and the car or a taxi from the shop.

lundi 15 mars 2010

It's Livin' Thing!

Living Wall: a vertical arrangement of plants and other organisms that naturally removes toxins and unhealthy contaminents from the air. It can be an indoor our outdoor feature.

Out and about in Paris I chanced upon 2 living walls; thought you'd like to see them.

The recently created shop 'BHV for men' has one and the second one is in the Pershing Hotel just off the Champs Elysees. Two very gracious members of staff there allowed us a look at the wall and the interiors. Their wall has a sliding glass roof (like Wimbledon tennis) that covers the interior courtyard and slides open in good weather, so I noticed they had 'interior' plants climbing up theirs. Very interesting urban detail. Possible to do chez vous if you are really determined and a good gardener. Here's how to

Click on here to see the magnificent Pershing Hall Living Wall.

mercredi 10 mars 2010

Gorgeous stuff at Habitat


Ohh the Habitat garden range is out now! What delicious products you can find there. Including these smart 3 pot planters - I thought they looked a bit like Cappudoccia in Turkey grouped all together like that

and these gorgeous long taper candles - 10Euros each. There's a summer brochure available in store and you can browse some of the products on
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mardi 9 mars 2010

Disappointments of winter

Gardening, for me, is all about trying new things and seeing how they succeed. I feel great when I see a plant or planting that succeeds - hits the right spot, well placed, happy, thriving.

However, to go with the successes there are bound to be some disappointments. This winter for example I purchased some beautiful cyclamens for the window boxes and the pots on the staircase. Pretty jewel colours, I was looking forward to appreciating them all winter. But it wasn't to be. Every single one perished, no matter how carefully I watered them. I was really disappointed. I wonder if it's the extreme cold or the wind, or just bad luck? All the plant info says 'hardy, easy to grow, light or shade, thrive in winter etc' Don't understand!

That's the other thing about gardening, there are no guarantees and sometimes there are no answers when things don't go right. Still, I'll be planting for spring at the end of March but I won't be buying cyclamens next winter.....Maybe I'll ask the cyclamen Society what I'm doing wrong? Amazing what you find on the web...;

ps the pansies are thriving, though, nice big colourful clumps....

lundi 8 mars 2010

More stuff to do in March!

Ok, so you got your ground fertilized and your skeletons out of the garden? Great! Next please.

An NB - remember to water any potted bulbs. They are reaching for the sky right now, happy to see the light after a long dark winter and they are thirsty so don't forget to give them a drink. Try to brave the cold winds and pop outside to give them a bit of care and they will pay you back making bright spots of colour where you need them most.

March, also the month to......prune the roses. Remove a percentage of the old wood where you can promote new wood (a healthy vigorous plant is less susceptible to disease). And if you have a forsythia, remove a third of the flowering wood to encourage an arching growth. Don't prune it in a square, I find that a bit unnatural. Here's a really beautifully natural one.

Allez - to work!

vendredi 5 mars 2010

Effortlessly stylish.....

Pam sent me this stylish table setting from the Ile de Re last summer. Effortless and casual but chic, no? Inspiration for your balcony or a quiet corner of the garden....

Start thinking about garden furniture

I know, there's snow on the way this w/e apparently. BUT, to put you in mind for better things, why not think about those hot sultry nights when you can share a bottle of Chablis over a candlelit dinner outside on the balcony or in the garden? You can dream! I'll be sharing pics of cute garden furniture that I've found on my travels around Paris and since IKEA are already out there with their summer range, why not start with them?

I found these cute little tables in wood and metal with matching chairs - very reasonable prices and perfect for a small space and dinner à deux.

The wooden table and chair are 'Tarno' , table 55 x 54cm and only 15Euros, the chair 'Tarno' is 12E.

The larger white table is 'Malaro' and measures 119 x 70cm and costs 59Euros, the matching banquette 69Euros (think about snuggling up on it) and the chair 29Euros

Be careful, IKEA stocks can run out quickly and I find at the end of the summer there's not much left so if you're interested, go for it!

jeudi 4 mars 2010

Things to do in......March

* Stars of March*

Clear your flowerbeds of any old stems, 'skeletons', leaves that have withered in the cold winter, get rid of any weeds that have borne the weather - all this before the March growth really gets going. You'll have a great start for the growing year.

Feed your shrubs and climbers. Find some slow-release organic feed which is released gradually as the soil warms up (it will, it will!). Scatter some bonemeal, seaweed meal or blood, fish and bone a square metre around your bushes and climbers and they will love you for it.
I found two suitable products at Leroy Merlin:

Lombricompost Tonusol - 8,95 Euros for 20kg and suitable for organic plantations

L'Authentique Or Brun - 8,95 Euros for 20kg, containing algues amongst other goodies

Both products contain 'fumier de cheval' - that's horseS*** to you and me! Look for 'terraux et amèliorants du sol' if you're searching

The hard work starts here, but you wouldn't put a paintbrush near a wall without preparing before so this is the garden equivilant of filling holes and sanding - boring but it's gotta be done! All that digging will warm you up anyway....

mercredi 3 mars 2010

zinc zinc zinc!

These shiny zinc pots are fantastic value and super useful to create a point of interest in your garden or on the balcony. Group them together using pots of different sizes and plant up with colourful summer flowers or pansies and foilage in winter or simply all green - ferns for example for a dark, uninteresting corner. Drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage (it makes a real racket but it's over quite quickly!), put sand or pieces of terracotta in the bottom for drainage, cover with potting soil and plant away. Use the matching (and equally cheap) saucers to ensure the soil doesn't seep away and make sure you empty the saucers in the winter so the plant doesn't sit in water all winter.

On steps - one pot on each step planted identically cheers up an uninspiring staircase.

Large zinc pots, IKEA

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lundi 1 mars 2010

It is Saint David's Day today, the patron saint of Wales. Normally patriotic Welsh people wear either a leek or a daffodil in their buttonhole but there's been a distinct lack of daffodils in UK, not one to be found in flower due to the harsh winter. I guess they'll won't be wearing Welsh daffs in the hillsides today but imported ones!

IKEA Garden Furniture is now on sale!

Quickly passing through IKEA (well, as quickly as I could anyhow), I noticed that the garden furniture was on display already. They also have a good selection of planters, some new and naturally, at IKEA prices. Apparently there's a brochure due out any day that gives details of the garden furniture available and you can find it on line, but I looked and it's not yet available. Watch this space. For the moment, there's a table, chair and bench set available on line if you don't have the strength to visit the store. We've had an IKEA table, chairs and bench for 5yrs now and it stays outside during the winter, so it must be pretty solid. I give the furniture a coat of wood renewing liquid each year so it keeps it from going white in the sun. It is really the cheapest end of the market so if you're looking for something that doesn't cost the earth and don't mind replacing it in a few years (depending on how you look after the furniture), then IKEA is a good bet. They have quite cool designs too.

I took some photos of the new range but I was apprehended in the store, but still I manged to get quite a few. I'll be featuring them this month.

Will be looking out for other ranges and will keep you posted.


Welcome to my garden blogspot! I'll be posting hints and tips for your garden, plant reccomendations, garden furniture and container information, ecological hints and anything for people who'd love to enjoy an outside spot or just to see a bit of green outside their window in this grey grey world. Keep on coming back, I'll post regularly. If you'd like me to answer a particular question or research a particular topic, let me know. See you soon!