Cultivation and care

Container combination – Butterflies and flashbacks

Designer Kristy Ramage plants up a stunning urn with a splash of gorgeous summer flowers. Here's how to recreate the look yourself. Photographs by Andrew Montgomery

Butterflies and flashbacks

Butterflies and flashbacks

A perfect July should have sun-filled days, and swaying, billowing Gaura on the terrace. Gaura is such a reliable plant for a pot we can’t possibly leave it out. Given sun, it flowers for a long period (frequently June to November) and even tolerates dry soil. This one is Gaura lindheimeri Karalee White (= ‘Nugauwhite’), a traditional, tall cultivar, but you could also try the slightly shorter but aptly named ‘Whirling Butterflies’ or ‘The Bride’, which have the same airy habit.


In the kitchen garden, I’ve been trying a cultivar of Calendula called ‘Flashbacks’. With their pale faces and pinky orange backs they fit well with Gaura, in a bleached out, gentle, July way. The brown centres pick up on the brown in the pot, an old cast iron urn with as much paint removed as my scraper could manage.

How to achieve the look

Cultivation and care

Cultivation and care

Gaura is a short-lived perennial, but will survive the winter in a sheltered spot. When you prepare the soil it’s worth adding some well-rotted, garden compost, it will help the plants sustain their long-lived display, but they’re remarkably unfussy, and only the Calendula needs deadheading. I grew these from seed, and selected the pinky backed ones once in flower, but you could also try Calendula ‘Bronze Beauty’ from Special Plants, which all have pale-cream faces and pinky bronze backs, beautiful for picking for a vase too.


Cast iron urns and vases often turn up in antique shops and auctions. They’re invariably caked in layers of paint, but if you scrape it off, the old iron is rather beautiful. I even like it when the paint clings to the pitted surface and you have a mottled finish, especially if the planting can echo any colour that remains. The urn shape can leave you a little tight for soil space, but as Gaura grows in a vase-shaped clump it is the ideal choice.

Check our reader offer on pelargoniums, including P. sidoides and P. ‘Ardens’, mentioned above.


Calendula officinalis ‘Flashbacks
  1. Calendula officinalis ‘Flashbacks’
    Flowers May to September.
  2. Gaura lindheimeri Karalee White (= ‘Nugauwhite’)
    Flowers June to November.