Outdoor Container Gardening: Plants that grow well in containers

Cordyline grows well in conainers

plants ideal for containers

Cordyline [Cabbage Palm; Australia/New Zealand]

A group of evergreen palm-like shrubs, these are not fully hardy and are often grown as houseplants. In sheltered areas, C. australis is the perfect plant for adding a touch of the exotic to a courtyard. It looks best and seems happiest when growing in a large container filled with rich potting soil. Its strap-shaped leaves are arranged in a great tuft at the top of a short stout trunk. Plants will take copious watering during the growing season and benefit from regular feeding. They seem quite unaffected by pests and are perfectly able to grow well in either full sun or fairly average shade. As they grow, some of the older leaves tend to shrivel and brown and should be removed for appearance’s sake. Keep frost-free in winter. There is a very attractive bronze form C. a. ‘Purpurea’. Some florists still name this plant Dracaena indivisa, which is no longer correct.

Corobia [New Zealand]

These evergreen shrubs are not really hardy, but they will usually grow well if they can be protected against a south or west wall, in full sun. They like light and well-drained, even poor soil. C. cotoneaster is a curious little shrub, with twisted tortuous branches. It is covered with masses of small yellow flowers in late spring and early summer and also has small orange-yellow berries later in the year. Propagation is by cuttings in summer.

Cytisus [Broom; Europe]

Small pot-grown plants of brooms should be obtained as they do not transplant well when they get older. Some

varieties get very tall and need more rootrun than the container gardener can normally afford, but there are a number of deciduous brooms which will fit into large tubs and pots. The hybrid C. x beanii is a small and trailing sort not much more than 30cm/1 ft high and 90cm/3ft across. It flowers in spring with golden-yellow blooms. C. nigricans is much later flowering (in July to September) and should be pruned hard back, but not into very old wood, in late spring. C. x praccox (‘War­minster Broom’) is useful as it is arching and very free flowering in a pale primrose colour in April and May. There is also a white form, ‘Albus’, and a cultivar ‘Allgold’ with long-lasting, rich yellow blossoms. If plants have a tendency to get over-large they can with safety be pruned back hard. They all like a sunny position and rather dry conditions. Seeds ger­minate freely, but the offspring are not neces­sarily true to type. Named varieties are better increased by cuttings of lateral shoots in late summer.

Elaeagnus pungens [Japan]

This elaeagnus has handsome ever­green foliage and the variegated forms are well worth growing. The best and most popular variety is perhaps ‘Maculata’ with each leaf heavily splashed with an irregular golden patch. ‘Argentea Variegata’ is similar but with silver markings. Both have rather insignificant fragrant flowers in late autumn. These beauti­ful shrubs, which if anything look better in the winter, will grow in ordinary soil in either sun or shade, although the leaf colour is better in the sun. They do not need much pruning and should be allowed to develop freely if room is available. Propagation is by cuttings in late summer.

Eucalyptus [Gum Tree; Australia]

Two eucalypts are valuable in container gardening: they are the widely grown blue gum, E. globulus, and the near hardy E. gunnii, the cedar-gum. Both can be grown from seed sown in heat in February/ March or be bought growing in pots as 46cm/ 18in high miniatures. Each is capable of deve­loping into a very large tree but the containers tend to restrain overcnthusiastic growth and it is possible to prune them hard back every year in spring or remove new growth when 23cm/ 9in long in early summer. Propagate by seeds. Gums have beautiful glaucous-grey foliage and add quite a distinctive change of leaf colour to gardens. They should be given adequate root room and frequent watering. Sheltered positions, in full sun, suit them best. Juvenile foliage is quite different from the mature growth and usually more attractive than adult leaves.

Fatsia [Japan/Formosa]

The single species in this genus F. japonica (Castor-oil Plant) is com­monly used as a houseplant; however, it is passably hardy and adds a sub-tropical look to a courtyard or small paved garden. The large leaves, averaging 30cm/1 ft across, are deeply fingered and of a shiny dark green. Milky white filaments of flowers form during the late autumn and early winter. Small plants are occasionally used in large window boxes but they grow eventually to over 1.8m/6ft tall and are more suited in the long term to a shady position in a large container.

This plant was one of the parents of a bi-generic cross (a cross between two plants of different genera) – the other being the Irish ivy, Hedcra helix ‘Hibernica’. The product is Fatshedera iizei (produced in 1910); this is slightly shorter (1.2m/4ft) with leathery deep green and glossy palmate leaves. It is equally hardy, although also grown as a houseplant. Both plants have variegated forms with cream-white edges; they are a little more delicate, but all have good sculptural quality worth cultivat­ing. Outdoors they grow in ordinary soil and are increased by removing rooted suckers.

Fuchsia [Central and South America/New Zealand]

Fuchsias were very fashionable in Victorian times and then went out of fashion. They are now back in and it is difficult to see why they ever ceased to be popular. Fuchsias should be in every garden ; they are deciduous, and grow well in either sun or partial shade; they have a long flowering period; can easily be propa­gated from cuttings; come in a wide range of

Fuchsia [Central and South America/New Zealand]

shapes and sizes, and offer a great diversity of flower form and colour. The fuchsia flower is composed of a tube which ends in four sepals and four petals which are in a bell shape and often in a contrasting colour to the tube. Most nurserymen offer hundreds of named hybrids. They grow exceptionally well in containers.

Dwarf types (up to 60cm/2ft) such as ‘Alice Hoffman’, carmine and white, and ‘Tom Thumb’, cherry-red and mauve, can be used in window boxes and small containers. Trailers such as ‘Golden Marinka’, red flowers, ‘Cas­cade’, red and white, and ‘Red Spider’, all red, are particularly suitable for hanging baskets and for planting at the edge of raised containers when their growth spills over the edge and is seen to best advantage from below. These trailing varieties are not fully hardy and should be taken indoors for the winter. The taller growing varieties are legion and a number of them are suitable for growing as standards or half-standards.

Standard fuchsias are very attractive and are easy to train, but a greenhouse is helpful. The idea is to produce a straight stem to the re­quired height and then to allow side shoots to branch out only at the top to produce a head. To do this a cutting is made about 10cm/4in long in August/September and is taken straight up – rubbing out any side shoots that are pro­duced. When the required height is achieved -usually .9-1.2m/3-4ft for a full standard and 45-60cm/1-2ft for a half-standard – the tip is pinched out and the resulting shoots at the top of the stem are encouraged to form a bushy head. A cane is needed to keep the young ‘whip’ straight and later a stout stake will be needed to prevent the head of the plant from blowing around or even snapping off.

The majority of fuchsias will live out of doors through the winter in mild climates pro­vided they are planted a little deeper than normal and banked with soil. The standard and hanging plants will, however, need some cover as all of their growth is at the top of the stan­dard stem. If both standards and other plants can be lifted, cut back hard and placed in a cool place under cover, they will, given a little heat in the spring, come into bloom much earlier and will give better value. They will, in fact, bloom weeks earlier than those which have to stay out of doors. If small cuttings can be taken in August and grown on in a greenhouse kept

green colour. A good fertile soil is best and a position affording some shelter from the east and north, especially for young plants. It will grow quite tall (up to 3m/10ft) but only slowly. Propagate by heel cuttings in summer.

Hebes [Australasia/South America]

Although said not to be reliably hardy except in favoured districts, the hebes will succeed in seaside dis­tricts, in most industrial areas and where they are in well-drained positions. These small ever­green flowering shrubs are often erroneously called Veronicas, a related genus of herbaceous


at around 10°C/50°F they will continue grow­ing through the winter and will have made nice flowering sized plants by April. Some growers do this each year enabling them to clear the containers for other plants during the winter and early spring. The young plants should be hardened off by gradually acclima­tizing them to outdoor conditions before they are put into their summer positions.

Fuchsias enjoy rich soil, full sun or light shade, regular watering and periodic feeding. As the flowering season approaches do not stop the new growths unnecessarily as a pinched outshoot takes 8 to 12 weeks thereafter to flower.

Griselinia [New Zealand]

These evergreen shrubs are often grown at the seaside where they certainly thrive. G. littoralis is, however, a lot hardier than is commonly supposed. The leaves are very leathery, glossy and of a lovely apple-

plants. The smaller growing types are often used in window boxes where they prove long lasting if not able to continue indefinitely. Most have dark green evergreen foliage; some addi­tionally have wine or purple colouring under the leaves and a few are variegated.

H. glaucophylla ‘Variegata’ is a small neat shrub with greyish-green leaves margined with creamy white. ‘Marjorie’ is hardier than most and grows to about 90cm/3ft high, flowering in July to September with white and light violet blooms. H. pinguijolia ‘Pagci’ (15-23cm/6-9in high) has small blue-grey leaves which are an attraction all the year round and small white flowers in May. H. speciosa ‘Autumn Glory’ is a small shrub of rather loose habit growing to no more than 46cm/ 18in tall and has deep blue flowers on short spikes during late summer and the autumn. It is sometimes used for autumn and winter window boxes where winters are very gentle. Remove faded flowers. Propagate by cuttings.

Hedera [Ivy; Europe/Canary Islands]

Few plants are more valuable for container gardening than the ivies. These evergreen climbers and trailers are excellent in cities where they stand up to pollution and have no objection to shade. H. canariensis and its variegated form H. c. ‘Varie-gata’ are colourful tall-growing, large-leaved plants which can be trained around canes and allowed to splay out from the ties or to clamber up a wall. The heart-shaped leaves are bright green, marked with silver and white in the variegated form. H. helix, the common or English ivy has many handsome and adaptable forms. For trailing there is ‘Glacier’, small leaves, edged with white, ‘Sagittaefolia’, with arrow-shaped leaves, ‘Tricolor’, pale green, white-edged leaves turning red in autumn, ‘Gold Heart’ (also called ‘Jubilee’), dark green, gold-centred leaves and ‘Hibcrnica’ (Irish ivy), large dark green leaves; the lovely golden ‘Buttercup’ is one of the finest. Ivies are happy in either sun or shade. In bright sun they will tend to colour up better with shorter spaces between the leaves; in dense shade they will lose some of their variegation (if variegated) and be lusher. Pieces root with case, even in water.

Many of the varieties grown in the home can be put out of doors but when doing so, see that they are hardened off for outdoor life before moving them outside permanently in May.

They should be gradually accustomed to the harder conditions, otherwise soft, lush growth produced indoors may be seriously burnt if put out in full sun or scorched with cold or wind during the harsher months.

Hibiscus [ Syria]

This genus includes deciduous and ever­green plants, some of which are grown in the greenhouse or as houseplants. H. syriacus (1.8-3m/6-10ft) is a hardy deciduous shrub which makes an excellent tub plant if it can be placed out of biting cold winds and in a sunny position.

The leaves are deep shining green and wide flowers make a fine display from July to Octo­ber although the individual flowers are short­lived. The variety ‘Blue Bird’, with single blossoms of a violet-blue, and an old hybrid ‘Hamabo’, with soft pink flowers and a crim­son eye, are perhaps two of the best, although there are a number of double-flowered varie­ties in beautiful shades of white, pink, red and purple.

Hibiscus do well in fertile soil, given shelter. Long shoots may be cut hard back after flower­ing, and new plants can be obtained from cut­tings of non-flowering shoots in July.

Hydrangea [North America/Japan]

Hydrangeas, when well grown, can be most effective in con­tainers. They will not, however, look after themselves – they have to be cared for. The splendid shrub H. macroplylla or H. hortensia is sold by florists as a pot plant when it is smothered with large flower heads. Unfortu­nately that plant is not completely hardy except in favoured districts and it needs housing away from frost during the worst winter months. The plants respond dramatically in flower colouring to the acidity of the soil in which they are grown and thereby the grower who can regulate the acidity can grow plants which have flowers from deep blue, vivid purple, red to soft pink or blue or even white. A small col­lection of deciduous hydrangeas growing in large pots (at least 38cm/15in) or tubs filled with varying soils can provide a good range of flower colouring.

Acid soil produces blue flowers but it can be improved upon by adding alum to the soil or a proprietary blueing powder. Limy soil pro­duces pink to red flowers and slightly acid soil – possibly one inducing pale blue flowers -could be turned into a slightly limy one by nothing more than tap water that is too hard.

The flower heads of hydrangeas are made up of male and female (sterile or fertile) florets and are borne on the same mop-head o( bloom; happily, the more decorative sterile flowers predominate. In the best florists’ varieties it is difficult to see the insignificant seed-bearing fertile flowers.

Pots should have a large drainage hole, and a good layer of crocks and well-rotted leaves at the bottom of the pot will help to conserve moisture. An all-purpose potting soil (with or without lime) is satisfactory, but leave plenty of space at the top of the pots for copious watering. If possible, allow the pots to begin to dry out before watering, but do not allow the plants to become so dry that they wilt.

Hydrangeas, provided they do not get too big, need very little routine pruning; it is suffi­cient if weaker shoots are removed in April; the dead flower heads, often attractive in them­selves and used for dried flower arrangements, may be left on the plants during winter and removed at the time of pruning. Cuttings root easily in August and September.

H. arborescens ‘Grandiflora’ (height 1.2m/ 4ft) is a less decorative but frost-hardy Ameri­can species. It has 15-20cm/6-8in heads of com­pletely sterile flowers of creamy-white which can cause the rather weak stems to bend down­wards. This shrub flowers in August and Sep­tember on the new wood produced during the spring and summer and should be pruned back hard in April. The H. macrophylla Lacecap

varieties (height up to 1.2m/4ft) have flat flower heads of small fertile florets in the centre and a ring of large sterile florets on the outer edge. They have flowers in much softer colours and are strong growing and hardy. ‘Blue Wave’ and ‘White Wave’ are two attractive varieties.

H. macrophylla Hortensia varieties have round mop heads of nearly all sterile florets. They are larger than the lacecaps and accord­ing to soil type, are pink, red or blue. ‘Ami Pasquicr’, deep red, ‘Goliath’, pink or purple blue, and ‘Lovely’, carmine or deep blue, are recommended.

Hydrangeas need regular but timely water­ing and feeding when in strong active growth. If a definite colour of flower is sought, atten­tion must be paid to the hardness of the water and the make-up of the fertilizer used with the florist type. Semi-shade certainly suits them -they can get scorched and collapse if too dry and too hot. Despite these likes and dislikes, hydrangeas are very popular and when com­pletely happy are very rewarding shrubs.



Laurus [Green Bay or Sweet Bay; Southern Europe]

This evergreen shrub is the laurel of the classics, used for making crowning wreaths for victors. It is both a culinary herb and a very decorative shrub with glossy green lance-shaped leaves. A pair of aromatic bay trees, clipped either into a pyramid shape or as mop-headed standards, often look exactly right in tubs near entrances. Bay is a very tolerant shrub that will stand up well to clipping, cramped root conditions, pollution and short periods of neglect. It will thrive with plenty of sunshine and survive quite well if it does not get as much as it would like – the form merely gets a little looser. The small containers they are usually grown in tend to restrict growth and such plants should never be allowed to dry out completely. When given a bigger rootrun they will grow quite fast and then need snipping back periodically. They are subject to frost damage in cold districts and should be given a sheltered position. Trim tub plants, grown as standards or pyramids, to shape during summer. Propagation is by cuttings.

Lavandula [Lavender; India]

Lavender is an evergreen aromatic shrub for those who can give it a position in full sun. They give a happy wel­come in a south-facing porch. L. spica ‘Hidcote’ has violet flowers in dense spikes which open fully in June and early July and can be picked for drying for use in pot-pourris and lavender bags. Growth is compact. The leaves are grey-green and the growth can be kept compact by hand pruning in spring. L. vera ‘Nana Alba’ is very dwarf with white flowers. Bushes should be trimmed back after the flowers have faded and need renewing periodically as they tend to grow leggy with age. Cuttings will root $ easily in autumn in a sheltered position.

Mahonia [Hollygrapes; Asia/North and Central Ame­rica]

The genus Mahonia represents one of the most important groups of hardy evergreen shrubs for use in shady places. They do, how­ever, much prefer the good things in life such as rich well-rotted leaf mould and positions which shelter them from boisterous chilly winds.

Most grow best in some shade, the exceptions being the not quite so hardy white-veined and grey-leaved types such as M. trijoliolata. The best known are M. aquijolium (Oregon grape) which is used as ground cover, and two taller growers, M. japonica and M. lomariifolia, both of which are ideal for restricted areas such as courtyards. A beautiful hybrid arising from the last two is called ‘Charity’ with spiny deep green leaves and long spikes of scented yellow flowers throughout winter.

M. japonica is the hardiest of the Asiatic species. It flowers in the depth of winter in mild climates with racemes (which may be 30cm/1 ft in length) of palest lemon-yellow flowers and a lily-of-the-valley fragrance. It has large, beautifully-split sculptural leaves of up to 60cm/2ft in length and is a very im­pressive shrub.

M. lomariifolia is less hardy and has many (up to 20 pairs) small leaflets-a distinctive fea­ture. The fragrant deep yellow flowers appear from January to March. The specific name implies a resemblance to a fern. It is quite tall-growing and capable of reaching 1.8-3m/6-10ft.

Like all large evergreen shrubs mahonias must receive adequate water, and a regular spray overhead during the growing season helps to freshen them up. Mahonias are best bought as small shrubs in 13-18cm/5-7in pots in September/October or late April/early May. Cuttings of M. japonica and ‘Charity’, which should be of well-ripened wood, will root easily in a mixture of peat and sharp sand in a close, shaded frame.

Myrtus [Myrtle; Southern Europe/West Africa]

The common or true Myrtle, M. communis, is hardy in most districts – particularly by the sea. It has been cultivated in Britain since the sixteenth century. It is an aromatic evergreen shrub, as a pot plant reaching a height of 60cm/2ft, with white flowers from June to August followed by blue-black berries; the stems are densely covered with deep green leaves. It needs full sun, some protection from cold winds and well drained soil. The form ‘Variegata’ is a great improvement on the type and is no more delicate. Increase by cuttings taken in early summer.

Palms [China/Canary Islands]

Most palms come from sub-tropical or tropical regions and are grown as house or conservatory plants, but one palm is hardier than most and that is Trachycarpus fortunei. This is the Chinese, Chusan or Fan palm developing into a small tree (2m/6ft) with a single trunk, heavily fibred. The green pleated leaves can reach 60-90cm/2-3ft across and will last for many years. Phoenix canariensis, related to the date palm, P. dactylijera, is seen grown in tubs and while tolerant of inclement weather, is only suitable for sheltered areas and should not be put to the test of too hard cold. Both palms enjoy good drainage and a rich potting mixture. Strong winds can damage the large leaves and some sheltered position should be chosen for them.

Perovskia [Afghanistan]

These hardy shrubby perennials come from Afghanistan. P. atriplicijolia is a deciduous semi-woody shrub (90cm/3ft) with a sage scent, finely cut grey-green leaves and 25cm/10in long flower spikes of violet blue in August and September. It loves the sun and a well-drained soil. Cuttings root very easily. This relative of the salvia is unusual and well worth growing.

Phormium [New Zealand]

P. ten ax, the New Zealand flax, is a strong-growing plant with evergreen sword-shaped leaves, a handsome shrubby perennial. It resembles a very large flag iris in leaf shape but with leaves from .9-2.7m/3-9ft long. The decorative leaves are very useful for creating a feel of the waterside or of a sub­tropical rain forest. They are tolerant of pollu­tion, practically any aspect and a variety of soils but do appreciate plenty of moisture at the roots. A bronze purple variety, P. f. ‘pur-pureum’, with bronze-purple leaves, is some­times seen. Propagation is best by division.

Pieris [Flame of the Forest; Asia]

Pieris require very much the same conditions as rhododendrons and they are often grown together. They need a lime-free soil and dislike drying out. The young tender growth is liable to be nipped by late frosts unless precautions are taken to keep the plants protected from the north and east and grown in light shade. All the pieris are evergreen, with brilliantly coloured new foli­age in the spring at the same time as the lovely racemes of flowers resembling lily-of-the-valley. The leaves change slowly to dark green. P. japonica has coppery-red leaves in spring and is comparatively small growing (1.2-2m/4-6ft). P. formosa ‘Forrestii’ has most striking red

container gardening - best plants

young leaves maintained for a long time. There are a number of named hybrids and forms, including variegated forms. Late in the autumn, all produce flower buds which remain attrac­tive throughout the winter and open into the characteristic sprays of waxy white flowers in April and May. Large pots or tubs should be used for these truly beautiful, arresting shrubs.

best foliage plants for outdoor containers

will not quickly outgrow their welcome. The hybrid R. ‘Praccox’ (1.2m/4ft) oft( n starts to flower in mid-January in mild areas and has rose-purple flowers on a bushy shrub. It dis­likes frost. A red hybrid, R. ‘Elizabeth’ (60cm/ 2ft), has attractive foliage and trumpet-shaped blooms in April and May. R. williamsianum (height 1.2m/4ft) with unfolding bronze leaves changing to green and blue-grey and reddish-pink flowers in April, and its hybrids – parti­cularly ‘Mystic’ which is pale pink and will not exceed 1.2m/4ft in 25 years – should be tried. Other recommended hybrids are the two small-growing blues R. ‘Blue Diamond’ (90cm/3ft), very free flowering and intense violet-blue in April, and R. ‘Blue Tit’, smaller-growing and of a paler lavender-blue shade. Rhododendrons must have an acid, or at least a neutral, soil but this need prove no hard­ship to the container gardener. He may have to buy soil for his containers and in this case it must be free from lime. Top-dressings of well-rotted leafmould or peat will keep the kinds mentioned happy for a number of years. Over­head watering will help in the development of flowerbuds and a constantly moist soil will also prove beneficial. Semi-shade is the best position. Remove the flowers as they fade by twisting, not cutting them off. Propagation is by layering or cuttings.

Potentilla [Cinquefoil; Northern Hemisphere]

The potentillas include medium-sized deciduous shrubs of tidy habit that will thrive practically anywhere, in any soil and in sun or shade, but they do best in a sunny position. P.jruticosa is the most popular with small dissected light green leaves and flowers like single wild roses (or strawberries) in shades of yellow and white over a long period from May to September. Many named forms are available, flowering from June to October, including ‘Farrer’s White’, small and compact with white flowers, and’ Vilmoriniana’, with silver-grey leaves and creamy-white flowers. Increase by bud cuttings in earlv autumn.

Rhododendron [Asia]

In confined spaces it is essential to see that shrubs that are selected are as attracti v^e for as long as possible throughout the year. During the flowering season all rhododendrons look handsome but the majority of evergreen rho­dodendrons have very sombre leaves and when this obstacle can be overcome by using types which have the more attractive foliage so much the better. A number of rhododendrons are very tall-growing and would quickly outgrow the space they occupy. The following varieties have different leaf shapes and colouring and


Rhus [Sumach; North America]

The sumach or Smoke Tree is a hardy deciduous tree grown for its distinctive leaf shape and fine autumn colouring. R. typhina (Staghorn Sumach) is correctly known as Cotinus coggygria. It is a small tree but is often slightly reduced in scale, say to 2.4m/8ft, when its roots are confined. It has thick succulent-looking branches and large pinnate leaves which turn to orange, red and purple in autumn. There are several named varieties with even more outstanding autumn tints. It should have plenty of root room and can easily be trained into a shape of a bare trunk capped with flat-topped branches. Ordinary garden soil and sun suit these small trees; they should not be allowed to dry out, and avoid heavy fertilizing which impairs the autumn colours. Propagate by layering or cuttings in August.

Ribes [Flowering Currant; Europe/North America]

The flowering currants are some of the most welcome of spring shrubs. Some of the varie­ties start blooming as early as February where winters are mild, while others are at their best in late May. R. sanguineum ‘Atrorubens’ can grow to 1.8m/6ft and has deep crimson flowers March to May. A lovely cultivar, which is con­siderably shorter and has flowers in April of a slightly paler hue, is’King Edward VII’. Totally different is a dwarf with practically yellow leaves, R. alpinum ‘Aureum’. All are very tole­rant of some hardship but will repay better attention. They have a characteristic, rather pungent smell – not approved of by all. R. speciosum is generally small-growing but not fully hardy although the most attractive of the species with red flowers appearing from April to June.

It must have perfect drainage and the shelter of a south-facing wall. Pruning of the species should be undertaken in spring when necessary to trim the shrubs back into the desired shape. Cuttings root with ease in the autumn.

Rosa [Rose; Northern Hemisphere]

Roses are grown in pots and tubs in greenhouses for pro­viding perfect, unblemished florists’ blooms and for the production of earlier flowers. To grow them in containers out of doors involves a different technique but when they are success­fully grown few plants can give so much plea­sure. Strong growing kinds – hybrid tea or floribunda-are the most popular. Pots of at least 20cm/8in diameter must be provided, and it may be necessary to move them on into 25cm/10in pots after one year’s growth. Any ) all-purpose potting soil rich in fertilizer is suit-

able and planting may be done at any time from October to April. The pots should be well-crocked and, if it is available, a 5cm/2m layer o( leafmould should be put over the crocks. When planting fill in the soil gradually around the roots, firming well. Some pruning of the roots and shortening of the top growth can be done at the time of planting. Regular watering and some mild feeding throughout the growing season will ensure healthy growth and a quantity of blooms. Established shrubs should be top-dressed with fresh soil early in the year when hard pruning should normally be undertaken. Watch out for suckers (growth from below ground rising from the briar on which the rose is grafted) and remove these right back to the main stem by twisting them off. Some sun is essential to rose growing but it is possible to grow good roses in partly shaded situations. They need frequent water­ing, removal of faded blooms and careful atten­tion to attack of pests (greenfly) and diseases such as mildew. Avoid at all costs trying to grow hybrid teas and floribundas under the shade of trees – they hate it.

Rosmarinus [Rosemary; Europe/Asia Minor]

Apart from being the perfect herb flavouring for roast lamb, R. officinalis is a very attractive evergreen shrub with fine grey-green pinnate leaves of a strong fragrance and pleasant pale violet flowers. It is comparatively slow growing and slightly tender in its first years; it can be trained into the position it is needed to occupy. It loves sun, and even more a maritime home, and is propagated from 15cm/6in cuttings. These can, if necessary, be rooted in water and when pot­ted up quickly establish themselves. The variety ‘Jessop’s Upright’ is more erect and perhaps tidier. If regular use of rosemary is made in the kitchen, regular pinching out of soft tip cut­tings will be all the pruning that is needed. The soil mixture used should be light and quick draining.

Ruta [Rue; Southern Europe]

These hardy ever­green shrubs have blue-green foliage with a pungent scent. R. gravcolcns ‘Jackman’s Blue’ is a slow-growing dense form of the species. The aromatic foliage is a vivid glaucous-blue, fernlike and invaluable when that colour is needed. The terminal clusters of bloom are small and of a mustard-yellow colour (rather unpleasantly scented) and are produced from June to August. They like a well-drained soil and plenty of sun. No pruning is necessary, although they may be cut back to old wood in spring to keep them within bounds. They can be propagated easily by cuttings taken in August.

Salix [Willow; Europe/Asia Minor]

These hand­some deciduous trees grow in moist soil and are generally too large for container growing. S. repens (Creeping Willow), however, is suit­able for a large tub as it seldom grows above lm/3ft, and if it can be kept in dry and stony soil, in full sun, growth is further restricted. The grey-green leaves are covered in silky hairs and there are long grey catkins in late spring. The variety 5. repens argentea can be grown as a miniature creeping standard.

Salvia [Sage; Southern Europe]

This is a large group of plants, including the culinary herb, S. offi­cinalis. For garden planting there is a very decorative cultivar, ‘Purpurascens’, the purple-leaf sage in which stems and young foliage are suffused purple. There is also a three coloured form, ‘Tricolor’ with grey-green, white and purple-pink leaves. The sages like a warm, dry position in full sun. Spikes of purple flowers are produced in summer.


ideal foliage plant for container gardening

Santolina [Cotton Lavender; Mediterranean]

Santolinas are low-growing grey or silvery foliaged ever­green aromatic shrubs. S. chamaccyparissus (45cm/18in) has woolly silver foliage and bright yellow daisy-like flowers in July. Old plants become rather untidy and cuttings should be taken to replace old and straggly stock. Pruning after flowering helps to keep these shrubs in shape. 5. c. Corsica is a dwarf variety. Avoid rich soil and do not overwater; these wiry shrubs prefer sandy soil and sun. Propagate by cuttings during summer.

Senecio [New Zealand]

This large complex genus in­cludes 5. laxijolius, a low-spreading evergreen shrub with silvery foliage; it thrives in the poorest and driest of soils and produces its yellow daisy-like flowers during most of the summer. In rich soils it tends to get unduly leggy and some of the silver is lost from the leaves. A related species, S. nionroi, has many edges to the white-felted leaves. Keep tidy by thinning out old and overgrown shoots after flowering. Increase by cuttings in August.

Viburnum [Europe/Asia]

Viburnums are a large genus of evergreen and deciduous shrubs of very varied appearance and quite a number would not be easily recognized as relatives of the others. All are quite hardy and most are very tolerant of a wide range of soil and situation. V. tinus (lau-rustinus) (up to 2m/7ft) is evergreen and flowers through the winter, often to April, with 8-10cm/3-4in heads of small pink and white flowers. It should not be pruned if this can be avoided as it usually develops into a nice shape if left alone. V. plicatum (previously V. tontentosum) is deciduous and is commonly known as the Japanese Snowball tree. This medium-sized shrub (2.4m/8ft) has globular white flowers in pairs, each about the size of a tennis ball, in late May and early June. Both plants thrive in moist soil, protected from north and east winds; a position in full sun is best, although V. tinus will tolerate some shade. Propagation is by cuttings in early summer or layering in September.

Vitis [Vines or The Grapes; Europe/Japan]

The ornamental vines are useful for giving height, a canopy of foliage, gorgeous autumn colours and grapes or grape-like fruit even where the truss is far removed from the luscious bunches at the fruit stand. They are excellent for cloth­ing walls and fences. V. x ‘Brandt’ is a chance seedling of very mixed parentage which does fruit with sweet aromatic bunches of purple black grapes and has attractive three to five lobed leaves which turn a deep red or purple with lighter veining in the autumn. V. coig-netiae is not only very strong growing but also impressive. The leaves are roughly rounded and turn crimson in the autumn. Small black inedible berries are produced. An ornamental variety, V. vinifera ‘Purpurea’, has red leaves turning to purple in autumn.

All grapes love the sun and a plentiful supply of moisture, regular top-dressings of bone-meal and, when flowers have set, small doses of fertilizer high in nitrogen to produce fruits. Propagation is by cuttings or layering.

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