We often joke at work that 90 per cent of a gardener’s time is spent moving plants – from greenhouse to cold frame, into the garden and then back again for winter. That merry-go-round gave me the idea of planting directly into this vintage wheelbarrow. It not only makes an attractive container large enough to create an impressive display but it is easily moveable so the arrangement can be wheeled into any position to add interest wherever there are gaps in the planting.

Read about our recommended wheelbarrows.

How to achieve the look

Container and composition

Wheelbarrow planter
© Richard Bloom

This galvanised wheelbarrow has seen much service at Cottesbrooke, although the base has started to rust through. Luckily, this has created convenient drainage holes making it an ideal planting container.

The tray is deep enough to accommodate the large rootballs of taller perennials, such as artemisias, and phlox. I’ve placed smaller groundcover plants, including a geranium and nepeta, around the edges and encouraged them to spill out over the sides to recreate the exuberance of a midsummer herbaceous border.

To add pops of more intense colour, I have added the annual Cleome hassleriana ‘Violet Queen’ throughout. Other annuals, such as cosmos, larkspur or cornflowers, could also be interplanted.

Wheelbarrow planter
© Richard Bloom

Cultivation and care

  • All of these plants are divisions from the herbaceous borders in the garden. I planted this wheelbarrow in early spring when the plants were still dormant.
  • I added a layer of crocks to the base of the barrow and then filled with a multi-purpose compost. Using such large plants in a small container means it’s imperative to water regularly, to keep the soil moist.
  • Feed throughout the summer with an all-purpose plant feed.
  • The taller plants, such as Artemisia lactiflora Guizhou Group and Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’, may need some support as they grow. Push garden canes into the compost and secure the stems using twine.
  • Watch out for the cleome’s thorny stems.


Summer planter
© Richard Bloom

Left to right

Artemisia lactiflora Guizhou Group An upright perennial with purple feathery leaves. 1.2m x 60cm.

Geranium Rozanne (= ‘Gerwat’) Reliable perennial with violet-blue flowers. 60cm x 80cm. AGM*.

Cleome hassleriana ‘Violet Queen’ Pink flowers on tall stems. 1.5m x 45cm.

Eutrochium purpureum Clump-forming perennial. 2.5m x 1m.

Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ Spikes of lilac flowers held on statuesque stems. 1.2m x 40cm.

Summer planter
© Richard Bloom

Left to right

Phlox paniculata ‘Lilac Time’ Pretty lilac flower. 1m.
Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ Silvery foliage with deep-blue flowers. 60cm x 50cm. AGM.
Hemerocallis ‘Stafford’ Burnt-orange/red flowers. 60cm x 45cm. AGM.


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.

Jenny Barneshead gardener

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