Sue Adams has lived in SW France for 15 years. Turning her garden into a veritable haven of produce, colour and scents, she knows how to create and
maintain beautiful, productive gardens, regardless of the season. Here she talks about gardening with pots and containers.
Sue Adams: Enthusiastic gardener and writer
Planting for colour
One of the challenges we face here in SW France is keeping colour, interest and freshness in our gardens throughout a long, hot summer. Without planning, the flush of spring flowers quickly shrivels up to a depressing desert of yellowing leaves, no flowers and baked earth. The plans we put into action at this time of year are vital if we are to maintain garden interest throughout the summer months. That’s where going potty comes in.
Choose with care
Knowing which plants can survive both hot temperatures and the potential stress of drought makes all the difference. Perlagoniums are popular for a reason but, if you fancy something different, there are lots of alternatives which look tremendous individually, in a border or as part of a mixed arrangement in a large pot.
Canna Lilies, Agapanthus bulbs, Lavenders, Oleanders, Verbena Bonariensis and pink or white Gaura can all make magnificent long-flowering additions to your flower beds and larger pots. Some annuals, such as the ever reliable Cosmos, Sunflowers and Nasturtiums, add punchy colours and can be used in a block or to highlight garden areas.
In shady areas try Impatiens, or go for leaf shape with assorted Hostas. The right Roses, if fed and watered appropriately, can be an absolute stalwart. Proven French favourites are Pierre De Ronsard, a climbing pink rose, and Mermaid, a climber with a vigorous, scrambling habit and a large pale yellow flower.
When going potty, think of leaf colour too. Silver leaved plants such as Lambs Lugs, (Stachys Bysantina) or Convolvulus Cneorum can dazzle in the sunshine just as much as reds and oranges, while the vibrant yellow and green of Euonymous Fortunei Emerald and Gold shines like a beacon. For pink and orange leaves consider Cordylines or varieties of Phormium Tenax which both have exotic strap-like leaves.
Tips on going potty
Pots and hanging baskets are a quick and effective way to brighten up a garden or courtyard and have several notable advantages:
Regular, consistent irrigation is essential to the health of most plants. Set up a simple, easy-to-use system because, by the height of the summer, you may be watering for an hour or more a day. Tap water is expensive and environmentally damaging so collect water run-off in butts and, if you have a well, consider installing a pump and taps around the garden, or even a dedicated irrigation system.
My own technique is to use an expanding hose which is light to move around and easy to store in a large terracotta plant pot. I congregate most of my pot plants within reach of the hose pipe and then use a watering can and a water butt for plants which are further away.
By grouping pots of plants together you can not only create attractive compositions but also create a microclimate where each pot will help its neighbours retain humidity. A saucer under each pot will ensure that water isn’t wasted.
Shady flower beds, which need to be kept moist, are near my hose outlet. Once flower beds are watered on a regular basis they become dependent and the roots stay closer to the surface rather than digging down in their search for water. My dry ’prairie planting’ and gravel beds, filled with drought-tolerant perennials, annuals and grasses, aren’t watered at all. If plants don’t survive, my belief is that they weren’t meant to grow there.
Another point to remember is that a recently planted tree or shrub must be generously watered at least every other day in dry weather, for at least a year.
There are two schools of thought about when to water. In the morning the water will evaporate more quickly but your plants are less likely to suffer rot and disease. Water in the evening and they have plenty of time to drink throughout the night, but are vulnerable to the afore-mentioned problems. I disregard the arguments and choose the time of day that suits me.
You can read more about Sue Adams and her gardening expertise in Meet The Bloggers.
First published in the May/June 2020 issue of The Local Buzz
Images@ Sue Adams and Shutterstock