Banishing large container plants

The stone trough dates back to the 1800s. With Japanese maple and rhodohypoxis

The stone trough dates back to the 1800s. With Japanese maple and rhodohypoxis

I am over big containers of plants. So over them, I got rid of more than 30 medium and large pots this week (proceeds to charity). I have four left with plants in them – at our gateway – and I am wondering whether they are necessary. Oh, and two vintage stone troughs with a pedigree that goes back over 100 years and the poor plants in one of those need urgent attention.

I carefully scrubbed off the carefully cultivated patina of moss and lichen for the new owner

I  scrubbed off the carefully cultivated patina of moss and lichen for the new owner

It is different in a small garden. I know that. And I am not opposed to the modern fashion of having a large number of plants in containers making a flexible display, as long as they are plants in high health. It is just a lot of work and a lot of heavy work to keep those plants worthy of being featured, let alone changing the display. In a very large garden such as we have, I have decided we don’t need them. I found I did not even get around to moving some of the medium sized containers from “out the back” to display at their peak because I could not be bothered manoeuvring them into a wheelbarrow and risking back injury. And I don’t want to be watering in the summer months.

The verandah pots at Jenny Oakley's garden near Manaia in peak health

The verandah pots at Jenny Oakley’s garden near Manaia in peak health

After years of running a commercial container nursery, I know a lot about growing plants in containers. The smaller your pot, the more often you need to repot, water and feed. But even large pots need regular attention and should be repotted entirely at least every two years. The larger the pot and the plant, the harder this becomes so most people avoid doing it, until the day when the poor plant has gone into such major decline that it can no longer be ignored. Or the pot has cracked or broken because of the outward pressure. And you can’t just keep potting permanent container plants to ever larger containers. At some point you have to get into root pruning and all the work that entails.

181I have witnessed many aberrations in good taste in containers and ancillary decoration over the years. Garish blue pots continue to infest the country – particularly Taranaki gardens, due to the high volume sold by a local importer some years ago. Having long rid myself of these lapses in good taste (planted up with burgundy plants, as I recall), close friends live in fear of my sniffy derision at their 1990s blue relics. I maintain a discreet silence unless they are good friends. Similarly, cheap pots adorned with glazed pictures of bamboo or sunflowers left these premises many years ago. I had it down to aged terracotta, neutral shades, hypertufa or stone.

But only the small pots remain. There are a few plants that need to be kept containerised, especially invasive bulbs or vulnerable treasures, but I do not think I will miss the detail of the other plants I had around the garden. I can always go garden visiting and admire them in other people’s gardens.

Beautiful pots don't even need a plant in them - photographed in Lynda Hallinan's garden near Auckland

Beautiful pots don’t even need a plant in them – photographed in Lynda Hallinan’s garden near Auckland

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