Rearrange: the benefit of a patio of pots!

I’ve come over all Mary Poppins this weekend and not just because gusts of wind keep blowing fallen leaves around the garden. Today we started the simple changes to our patio I’ve been talking about and now that I’ve started tidying and reorganising I can’t stop. The garden already feels radically different to me. Why haven’t I done this before?!

Four years ago we set up our garden to my plan and, although I have adapted and added to it quite a lot – particularly with new plants adding colour – the bones have remained the same. Pots sit in spots where I know the sun shines, the dahlias were lined down the alley and the shed sat buried awkwardly beneath plants in a corner of the patio (where I balance on one leg to access it while trying not to fall onto a Melianthus major).

I’ve never exercised the main benefit of our garden, that its many pots can be moved around easily. Reluctant because I’ve found spots where plants are happy to grow and because I really like some of the combinations. Moving them around however I’m now finding is a risk free exercise because I can simply move them back if I don’t like it.

The current position of the shed – I’d already started moving things out and shuffling pots around, explaining the mess.

One thing that has never sat comfortably is the small shed tucked into a corner of the patio. This corner is my favourite landscaping feature of the garden with a beautiful original brick wall next to concrete steps. As a brutalist lover (in the architectural sense) those very brutal steps next to the bricks always felt too good to hide.

Yesterday we finally moved the shed and what a relief and sense of excitement to have done so. Down the alley, where it sits now, I only had to move one dahlia yet we’ve gained over a square metre of space on the patio. It’s a small change but the patio feels enormous for some reason, the alley isn’t as ‘blocked’ as I had expected and that beautiful brick meets brutal corner is back. Plus I can actually access the shed.

Plants wise I’ve begun giving away (and throwing away) plants to reduce the number on the patio, as well as moving some key plants I propagated to my new allotment meadow. This is to free up space to keep the patio neater and to make room for those new plants I will no doubt find jumping into shopping bags I happen to be carrying.

I’m also going to plant a couple of my favourite shrubs – Grevillea rosmarinifolia being one – into the main sunny border to form some kind of informal, wildlife friendly techno hedge. A hedge I can only describe as shaggy, filled with shrubs that flower in the summer months.

What next? Now things have started moving around, I’m hoping I can move enough for the garden to feel like a different space when walking out of the doors. In particular I’d like to increase the zen-ness of our neon jungle, to make it feel more enclosed. The Cordyline australis is probably going to be pollarded in spring. It’s growing too tall, the main problem being the amount of water it sucks up from the bed.

Of course, there’s only so much I can change as the house, patio and garden shape ain’t goin’ nowhere. The plants however will keep moving and I’m hoping in a different arrangement I can give our patio a new lease of life for 2019.

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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.

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2 thoughts on “Rearrange: the benefit of a patio of pots!

  1. this summer Piet Oudolf has designed a nursery-garden during a flowers and plants show in Italy. It was mostly of grasses and perennials (of course…), but with some annuals too. All in 25 liters pots to cover the whole square with few diagonal paths. The plants were big, almost maturity specimens and pots were totally hidden by the plant itself. It was stunning and…moveable!! And he has shared even his plants map and design, with all the notes about the plants used. If interested I can send it to you by email with some photo. Since I have a paved patio of about 40 square meters, I would like to experiment with something similar. My only concern is…watering, which can be a nightmare, although Oudolf explained that by choosing the right plants and arranging them very close to each other, watering can become very manageable even in pur climate of harsh hot sunny summers. Rocco

    1. That sounds fantastic Rocco! Thank you for letting me know, I’d love to know more. My email is just jack@ my web address.
      Jack

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