Kirsty Ramage pots of style. Photo by Andrew Montgomery

Wild-style spring plant display for the container garden

Make the most of early spring plants to create a container display with the appeal of the wild woodland edge. Perfect for the container gardener or a sunny terrace

Container planting comes into its own in the spring. Perfect for small gardens, or terrace, stylish pots can lift any outdoor space. They’re wonderful grouped together so why not create a collection of containers by the back door or front entrance, somewhere where you can look out on a colour-rich display and enjoy the rush of colour at the start of the season. The container’s themselves provide much of the texture. In the display below, designer Kristy Ramage has used a reclaimed cast iron bowl and has filled it with Muscari, Anemone and Pulmonaria, in varying shades of purple, to create a stylish pot that adds light to a shady garden corner. Below, Kristy explains how to create the look and gives some advice on growing plants in containers.

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Kirsty Ramage pots of style. Photo by Andrew Montgomery

Lunaria annua ‘Corfu Blue’ is a show stealer. Its curious, pale, cobalt-violet petals have a luminosity, especially on a gloomy day. Wherever I’ve seen it growing it’s always steadfastly throwing up a spike that towers over the lower growing plants that flower this early. For a pot situated in dappled shade, this kind of light reflecting palette is ideal. The Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’ and Pulmonaria Opal (= ‘Ocupol’) are lower growing ‘carpeters’ whose flowers have the same abilities to glow. The dense spike of the Muscari latifolium just punctuates the mix of palest lilac and fresh green with its inky Prussian blue and purple. All these plants will grow on in a border in dappled shade, if you move them out of the pot after flowering.

If you want to get the most from your container display, it’s worth making your own leafmould. Particularly suitable for woodland edge plants, the cool, moisture-retentive, yet well-draining conditions it offers are ideal. Collect leaves in autumn, bag them up in bin liners, punch in a few holes and hide them under shrubs covered in yet more leaves so they don’t offend the eye. A year or so later, pull out the bags and you have rich crumbly magic to add to your pots and borders.

How to create the look

Container

You’ll find these large, cast iron bowls in reclamation yards. Originally made for heating water for the laundry, they are almost indestructible. You don’t need to worry about damage from frost or the stray football, but you do need to put some effort into making the drainage holes. Mark the metal with a centre punch, then put a drop of oil where you are about to drill (this acts as a lubricant and keeps the drill bit cool). Make about five holes, with a sharp 8-10mm cobalt drill bit, using the slowest drill speed. Cover the holes with crocks so they drain freely. To keep the pot a little lighter and increase the drainage, use Leca (expanded clay balls) or chunks of polystyrene in the bottom third. You’ll need some stones around the base to hold the pot level. These great big pots look good with box hedges around them.

Plants

Four early spring plants for container planting
Photo: Andrew Montgomery
  1. Muscari latifolium 
    Height
    25cm. Season of interest spring.
  2. Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’
    Height
    20cm. Season of interest March – cool early May.
  3. Pulmonaria Opal (= ‘Ocupol’) 
    Height
    20cm. Season of interest March – May.
  4. Lunaria annua ‘Corfu Blue’.
    Height
    60-80cm. Season of interest spring – early summer.

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Photography Andrew Montgomery