Gardens Illustrated
Summer meadow planter
© Richard Bloom

A soft summer meadow planter using poppies and sanguisorba

Published: July 28, 2022 at 11:38 am
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Head gardener Jenny Barnes creates a summer meadow in a basket, featuring grasses and poppies that will thrive into autumn

I love the idea of creating meadows that everyone can enjoy, regardless of the space they have available. Even a small basket such as this one can provide habitat for bees, butterflies and insects and is small enough to sit on a table, on a balcony or can be used as a window box.

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Perennials are a sustainable option that will come back year after year. The grasses, sanguisorba and poppies will continue to look good into late autumn and winter, offering a long season of interest.

How to achieve the look

Container and composition

Summer meadow planter
© Richard Bloom

I love the way that the light filters through the grasses and wanted to reflect this soft, airy effect with the wicker basket. I chose one that is slim and rectangular, but you could use any shape or size.

The Dianthus carthusianorum, Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Red Thunder’ and scabious all hold their flowers on tall, wiry stems, which mingle with the grasses and float in the breeze.

To create this look, the bulk of the display needs to be grasses, but you can add any summer-blooming wildflowers – harebells, cornflowers, wild carrot (Daucus carota), ragged robin would all work well. If the container is for a shady situation, foxgloves, aquilegias and cardamines would all work too.

Cultivation and care

  • To protect the wicker work, I lined the basket with an old compost bag.
  • I added a layer of gravel to the base for drainage, which also adds stability to the container.
  • I filled the majority of the basket with the grasses and then threaded through the flowering plants.
  • These plants are happiest in full sun, they don’t need a lot of water, but it’s important not to let the container dry out completely.
  • Deadhead the scabious and dianthus as blooms finish to extend the flowering period.
  • When the grasses begin to look tatty, shear over the whole basket, leaving a couple of centimetres’ growth.
  • Keep the basket damp, but not waterlogged throughout the winter and the display will reappear next spring.

Plants

Summer meadow planter
© Richard Bloom

Left to right

Stipa tenuissima ‘Pony Tails’ Compact grass with soft, feathery leaves. 60cm x 30cm. AGM.
Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama Deep Blue’ Mound-forming perennial with green-grey foliage. 60cm x 45cm.
Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Red Thunder’ Dark-maroon flowerheads on slender stems. 1.2m x 60cm.

Summer meadow planter
© Richard Bloom

Left to right

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Papaver somniferum Tall annual with glaucous foliage. 1.2m x 30cm.
Scabiosa incisa Kudo White (= ‘Ichwit’) Button-like white flowers, attractive to bees and pollinators. 50cm x 50cm.
Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca Dainty pale-yellow pincushion flowers. 80cm x 60cm.
Dianthus carthusianorum Evergreen perennial with bright-magenta flowers. 40cm x 20cm.

Authors

Jenny Barneshead gardener

Jenny Barnes is head gardener at Cottesbrooke Estate and is leading the way on new techniques of rose pruning and training.

Richard Bloom travels widely, photographing gardens, plants and people. He was the Garden Photographer of the Year in 2016 and Garden Media Guild Features Photographer of the Year 2018.

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