Pot’s Growing On? Planting sweetpeas, caring for permanent containers, ferns and dahlias are go

I’ve finally spent a good afternoon in our garden after being super busy with other people’s gardens for the last couple of months. Normally I’d have our garden looking spick and span by mid-March but with being away in California and spring being the busiest time for garden design, I’m a bit behind. In the winter I tucked our shed round the side creating more space and revealing the cement stairs to our neighbour’s flat. Some wouldn’t like these stark steps but I love their concrete wall.

Tweaks for 2019

To recap: this year I’m making our garden planting taller, introducing more evergreen tropicals for increased structure and upping the tropical ante by removing some non-tropical plants, including many grasses. I’ve also removed the table we never used and have two chairs for Chris and I to use instead. One of the big changes seems so obvious to do now but rather than having exposed gravel down the side with pots on – as much as I like that look – I’ve decided to remove the weed suppressant matting which has been there for decades and instead plant direct into the ground and gravel. The garden feels slightly more open already and will reduce the need for watering in summer – hooray!

Spring white flowers

In the last few weeks the garden has sprung into life with everything starting to shoot (even dahlias) and many spring plants flowering, such as our above plum tree and my treasured Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Alba’ and Narcissus ‘Thalia’.

Refreshing compost in pots

At this time of year it’s important I do some routine maintenance on our collection of pot plants, particularly replenishing with fresh peat free compost. I’ve used peat free for about five years now for everything and find it works better. As with any compost, it can run out of nutrients so for permanent plantings like shrubs and my dahlia collection I remove the top half of the compost, add some organic fertiliser and top up with new compost. Our Cannas are shooting strongly now and the dahlias all had shoots below the surface. Below are most of our larger pots which look bare now but will be lush very soon indeed.

I’m setting aside some pots for annuals I’m growing from seed. You’ll see most of our pots have always been terracotta and the few plastic pots we use are left over from bought plants and now a number of years old. How’s that for recycling.

Fern wall almost back to full health

I’m making some repairs to our fern wall by repotting some plants and nurturing others back into health, which is why half are currently on the ground. It’s already looking lusher than this time last year because in 2018 the Beast from the East killed ALL of the fronds! My fern collection is only just recovering but I’m pleased to see that it is. Even some of the rarer and more tender ferns are back.

Sweet peas

A few years ago I grew sweet peas in this pot but it was then occupied by a clematis that looked unhappy with pot life in later summer. I always grow dark purple and pink sweet peas and this year’s batch look healthy so far, I sow in January for tough plants but that hopefully keep flowering until October. They’re starting to scramble away.

Begonia rex leaf cuttings

Last autumn I took some Begonia rex leaf cuttings and to my surprise had loads of baby begonias! I gave some away but kept these four which look very healthy. The plan is to grow them on and plant outside before repeating this autumn. I’m hoping the parent plant, which looks very unhappy inside, will recover too. Leaf cuttings are easy, just cut up a new leaf and rest on damp compost in a covered propagator, eventually you’ll see roots and shoots.

Window box dreaming

For the last four years I only had one of these window boxes on this window ledge until today I realised I could fit both on! What an idiot! lol I haven’t decided what to put in our window boxes here and out front yet but I’m excited about this new option. To think, I almost threw one of these out today!

Other goings on

A lot of the tasks I’ve been concentrating on this month are around propagation, from seed sowing to cuttings and divisions. Above is half my allotment to be with my brassica seedlings growing nicely. I also have a good mix of different prairie grasses here, though you wouldn’t know it yet.

Many plants I’ve managed to pot on, including my salvias, conifer collection and hardy succulents. Gradually I’m moving everything around and I’m hoping the result will be a more complete garden than in previous years.

One aspect that is really important to me is for the garden to feel semi-natural and unpredictable, with many self seeders I introduced a few years ago now popping up randomly all over the place. I love this element of surprise and lack of control, so I tend to leave most to grow where they choose to.

Many annuals tend to be perennial in our garden, including Nicotiana, one of which is now a huge beast of a plant.

Another improvement this year is that I’m doing away with pots containing mixes of plants and instead I’m planting only one type of plant per pot to give me some good splodges of colour and shape to mix together later in summer. I enjoy mixed pots but it’s more ‘me’ to have a good, visibly healthy plant per pot.

All in all, our patio might look messy and muddy now but I’ve broken the camel’s back. All I really need to do now is tidy up on a dry day, finish planting up and then do some final moves when the plants are all growing nicely.

From Clapham, London – see ya next time.

Jack

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

One thought on “Pot’s Growing On? Planting sweetpeas, caring for permanent containers, ferns and dahlias are go

  1. As usual, I really enjoy your posts. The photos plus your writing style are most appreciated, thanks for taking time. To Jack or any of his readers, I’ll be in London mid July. I’ve rented a car to drive to the Cotswolds and See Oxford ( moms maiden name is Bodley and her ancestors were British so I fancy thinking I’ve a connection to the Bodlien library, ha ha, I know: pathetic Yank!); but driving on the left side, and steering wheel on the right side…. new to me. So I’ve also booked a room near Heathrow and thought maybe I should nix the Cotswolds and just use the subways to see London gardens. There’s Kensington, right? What advice, if any, does anyone have please? Thanks. Chuck

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