Elegant container displays for spring

Gardener Thomas Unterdorfer creates elegant container displays that combine the sights and scent of spring. 


Being greeted by a cloud of fragrance when you open the front door is a great start to the day. The perfume emanating from this arrangement will welcome me for weeks and the flowers will last equally long. This pot captures some of my favourite scents of early spring, while the strong green of the Sarcococca confusa, the marbled leaves of cyclamen and the purple of the Bergenia cordifolia look great just outside the door. White, pink and purple flowers lift the arrangement and together create a strong planting scheme.






How to achieve the look

Colours and shapes

The dark leaves of Sarcococca confusa work well as a backdrop in floral arrangements. The scent of the flowers is an added bonus. Cyclamen provide an attractive contrast, with their exquisite flowers and grey-patterned leaves. You can really appreciate them close up in a pot. Hyacinths are the temporary stars of this planting scheme. I started them in pots, so they are all at different stages of flowering, which leads to a more natural look and prolongs flowering. Bergenia cordifolia ‘Overture’ is one of the best plants for dark-red leaves in winter. It provides contrast in terms of shape, and the colour has a calming, complementary effect on the arrangement. Later in spring, magenta flowers appear on tall, scarlet stems.

Container, cultivation and care

This simple terracotta pot had been whitewashed and used repeatedly in the garden. The pattern of algae on the paint mirrors the leaves of the cyclamen and contrasts with the other plants. As there is only one hole in the pot, I used a generous layer of terracotta crocks and grit for drainage and a mixture of John Innes No 2 and multi-purpose compost with additional grit. This combination also looks good without flowers and should last for another season, given some watering and a liquid feed.



1 Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Fairy White'. I usually pot some bulbs and move them into the greenhouse to use them earlier and over a longer period. March. 20-30cm. USDA 4a-8b.
2 Sarcococca confusa. Evergreen shrub with tiny, fragrant, white flowers. Can be kept shorter by pruning. December – March. 2m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 6a-9b.
3 Cyclamen coum. A jewel in any garden with delicate flowers in purple, pink and white. It can be drier in summer, so planting under hedges or shrubs is ideal. February – March. 10cm. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 6a-9b.
4 Bergenia cordifolia ‘Overture’. A very attractive cultivar with magenta flowers on tall stems. I also enjoy using them as cut flowers. March – April. 20-30cm. RHS H7, USDA 3a-8b.



Words Thomas Unterdorfer

Photographs Andrew Montgomery

You can find this and further container display ideas from Thomas in the March issue of Gardens Illustrated (245). 





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