The Random House Book of Plants for Pots and Patios is designed to help you choose and grow a selection of some of the best plants that are suitable for pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets. With nearly 300 plants, you'll find inspiration and sound advice on creating beautiful pots, either for summer color, or to cheer you up in the dark days of winter.
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This book is designed to provide inspiration for filling containers, window boxes, hanging baskets and built-in planters, and to suggest plants suitable for growing between paving stones and in cracks in patio walls. With a little planning and forethought, colour and interest can be provided throughout the year and we have illustrated a diverse range of flowers and foliage to suit every need.
The book is arranged roughly in flowering order, from spring to autumn, although we have kept groups of bulbs, shrubs, perennials and trees together. As a general rule, we have categorized the individual plants as either evergreen or deciduous, described the overall size of the plant, flowers and leaves, and given indications of hardiness. Common names are given in bold Roman print, Latin names in italics,- synonyms, abbreviated to syn. (other names for the same plant) are given in brackets.
The key to successful container gardening is regular, generous feeding and the continual provision of ample water without letting the pots get waterlogged; in affect this means providing the largest, most generous container possible.
When preparing containers for planting it is important that they are clean and provided with sufficient drainage holes. To stop worms from coming up through the holes, and prevent waste of water, stand pots in saucers in summer and on top of saucers in winter or in very wet seasons. To prevent fine particles from being washed down and blocking the holes, put a layer of coarse stones or rough bark at the bottom of the container. Be careful not to use limestone chippings or rubble in pots containingacid-loving plants like rhododendrons, although these will be good for lime-loving plants like clematis.
As a general rule, plants that require more water do well in plastic pots, whereas drought-tolerant plants are happier in terracotta. New unglazed terracotta or earthenware pots must be soaked before potting to wet them and remove any salts.
It is possible to give new terracotta an aged appearance by encouraging algal growth. This can be done by painting the container with any medium containing nitrogen and keeping the surface damp; liquid manure or yogurt both work reasonably well. When planting a large chimney pot, keep in mind that only half the pot need be filled with compost, the rest can be filled with broken bricks or stones.
An annual review of containers will ensure that they look their best; shrubs and trees may benefit from being repotted, perennials divided, and both replanted into new soil. Feeding can be done either with liquid feed during watering, or by putting a measured amount of slow-release fertilizer onto the surface of the pot.
Remember that the position of the container must suit the individual plants; some need sun whereas others prefer shade. Plants in containers have one great advantage over those in the ground; they can be moved to suit their requirements. Some, such as primroses, are best with sun in the cool times of year, but need shade in summer.
Compost and care
Special compost for containers and hanging baskets is available from garden centres and this is suitable for most of the plants illustrated. Compost should crumble easily, retain moisture without becoming waterlogged, permitting free drainage and circulation of air, and contain the correct balance of nutrients and level of lime or acid, water-storing gel mixed into the compost before planting increases water retention.
Remember that plants do need attention if they are to be grown in containers for long periods and new compost will only provide enough nutrients for the first 6-8 weeks or so. Thereafter, many plants will need feeding weekly during the growing period, but less in winter or while dormant.
If You are unable to find anyone to water Your containers while you are away, move them into a shady position; if it is summer, water them well and leave water in their saucers. Alternatively, place the entire receptacle into a loosely tied plastic bag; the bag above the tie will serve as a trap for any rainwater which will then trickle down onto the container.