A container planting display with Elymus magellanicus from Ben Preston

A pot plant display with Elymus magellanicus

Ben Preston, head gardener of York Gate in Leeds, offers a container display to augment the garden’s lingering warmth and colour. Words Ben Preston, photographs Eva Nemeth

Soft blues and pinks are often far and few between come late summer. This soft and airy composition  with the steel-blue Elymus magellanicus at its centre provides something a little unseasonal. Cascading, pink baby’s breath (Gypsophila ‘Rosenschleier’) and interweaving Salvia ‘Blue Note’ spill from the deep, stone bowl, standing out against the warm colours in the backdrop. A delicate combination.

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How to achieve the look

Container and composition

Stone planters are much more permanent than their terracotta counterparts and can add structure to focal points in the garden. This attractive stone bowl, topped with a square rim and placed on an old millstone, is a timeless feature. Filled with crocuses, species tulips and fritillaries in the spring, it is replanted in late May with this delicate combination. The long-flowering Salvia ‘Blue Note’ has aromatic foliage and intense, royal-blue flowers, and as the season progresses it intertwines with the glaucous spears of Elymus. The pink, frothy blooms of Gypsophila ‘Rosenschleier’, held on wiry, almost invisible stems, also entwine but cascade informally over the stone edge, softening the stone.

A container planting display with Elymus magellanicus from Ben Preston
© Eva Nemeth

Care and cultivation

You may associate Elymus with the pernicious couch grass (Elymus repens), a thug in many of our gardens but the steel-blue Elymus magellanicus is a well-behaved, clump-forming species with very attractive foliage that performs well in containers and borders. I treat many of the perennials I incorporate into pot design like bonsai. In the autumn when it is time to replace planters with spring bulbs, I remove the summer perennials, teasing and trimming the roots to reduce them in size so they can be potted in a 1.5-litre plastic pot. They can then be stored over winter with relatively little care and replanted again the following summer. It may not appear in the rule books, but it works for me.

Plants

A container planting display with Elymus magellanicus from Ben Preston
© Eva Nemeth

From left to right:

Elymus magellanicus  A slow-spreading, clump-forming grass with superb, semi-evergreen, silvery blue foliage. Full sun, free-draining soil. 60cm. RHS H6.

Salvia ‘Blue Note’ A delicate, aromatic salvia, flowering from May to November. Drought-tolerant, thriving in a hot position. I treat it as a tender perennial. Full sun. 75cm. RHS H4.

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Gypsophila ‘Rosenschleier’ A delicate, airy baby’s breath with a procumbent habit. Masses of tiny, semi-double, white-flushed, pink flowers that cascade if planted in a rockery or on a wall edge. Full sun. 30cm. AGM. RHS H5.