How to create stylish, indoor container displays

In the last of his series on creating containers with impact, gardener Thomas Unterdorfer keeps the colder weather at bay with hothouse and conservatory favourites. Here he uses Geoppertia crocata 'Tassmania' to echo the fire and light that is synonymous with the time of year. 


November is the time to indulge in some luscious planting, with the memory of warm autumn colours still fresh in the mind. The inspiration for this scheme came from the flowers of Goeppertia crocata ‘Tassmania’, which reminds me of burning torches. The beautiful metal container, found in an antiques market, complements the colour scheme of this arrangement of leaves and bright flowers – almost like a bowl of fire. 










1 Goeppertia crocata ‘Tassmania’. Bright-orange, torch-like flowers for weeks. Repeat flowering, if happy. The leaves get easily scorched in direct sunlight. 50cm.

2 Begonia ‘Muddy Waters’. This rhizomatous begonia dislikes wet feet, so be careful with watering. Has pale-pink flowers, but I grow it just for the leaves. Spreads slowly. 20cm. RHS H1B, USDA 10b-11.

3 Tradescantia zebrina. A stalwart of indoor plants and easy to propagate. There is a good selection of cultivars available, but I still prefer the species. Trails to 1m. AGM. RHS H1C, USDA 9a-11.


How to achieve the look

Colours and shapes
The plants are linked by the colour purple, found on stems and leaves, especially the underside of the Tradescantia. The flowers of the Goeppertia are the obvious stars of the display, but even without them, the shapes and textures of the leaves make an interesting arrangement. I especially love the shape of the container, which seems to elevate the planting from the table.

Cultivation and care
Drainage is important for most plants grown in a pot. It becomes even more important when there is no drainage hole, as in this case. Using a saucer or plate to capture excess water, would spoil the look of this arrangement. To get around this, I filled about a third of the pot with hydroleca (you could also use grit, gravel or crocks). This will provide a good reservoir of water but will prevent the roots from sitting in water for too long. Multi-purpose compost is a good choice here, but the key is watering. Only water when the compost is dry, and then not too much; maybe a little, three times a week. Once the flowers of the Goeppertia have gone over, cut them off as low as possible, without injuring the leaves. The Tradescantia will need some reining in by cutting off shoots, and the Begonia needs to be given enough space to develop more leaves and eventually flowers. Feed with a liquid fertiliser every two weeks.


Words Thomas Unterdorfer

Photographs Andrew Montgomery

You'll find two other container display ideas from Thomas Unterdorfer in the full feature in the November 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated (253). 






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