Of Pots And Pans

I don’t own the Priory.  I don’t live there, drifting about in the evenings with a dry martini in one hand and a watering can in the other.  And with that pleasant existence denied to me, I’ve been cautious about having too many pots and containers dotted about the place.


Pots of auriculas in the shaded greenhouse

As I’m not always there to water, parched Priory potted plants sometimes have to fend for themselves for a few days.


But over the years, I have slowly increased the number and variety of planters.  A few simple precautions ensure that pot grown plants can easily survive even very hot, dry conditions.  For example, these pelargoniums are in iron pots which don’t leach moisture.  With a top-dressing of gravel they can (and do) survive two or three days without water.


I have planted up a datura,


several more pelargoniums and fuchsias to group by the front door.  They are in full sun for half the day but lining the terracotta pots with plastic and once again mulching with gravel keeps them moist.


Certain plants flourish if neglected.  This old planter has suffered frost damage but looks OK when planted


with drought resistant sempervivums.  I might occasionally splash them.  But only very occasionally.  (The watering cans were fished out of a skip.  They are too leaky to hold water but I like them nonetheless).


Semps don’t even need a pot – I also stick them into the gaps in sunny walls where, once established, I never water them.


I have a lot of cacti and succulents in the greenhouses, some of which I bring out in summer.  You may remember that in this hot, south-facing corner they hide an ugly manhole cover.


Agapanthus too can survive a few days untended.  But even so you must water them regularly throughout the summer if you want plenty of flower stems the following season.  (And obviously you do.  Why wouldn’t you?  I was quite ridiculously pleased to have 14 flowers on this one).


Of course, for non-succulent plants in pots to really flourish (without almost constant watering) you need to site them in shade.  Here (where there is no sun at all) an old terracotta pot is home to a hosta whose


leaves soon hide the broken pot rim.  (I’m loathe to throw out only slightly damaged, nice old pots).  It has no drainage holes and needs only infrequent watering.  On the right I’ve planted a toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) in a zinc bucket and behind that is an upright ivy (Hedera helix ‘Erecta’).  


I also grow a number of ferns in shade; some planted in naturally hollowed out sections of tree trunk.


I discovered these as I was chopping firewood and thought that they would make perfect planters.


And they do.  The wood holds moisture well and though you might think that they would soon crumble away, these are already four or five years old.  Cheap too!


To the north of the house is a shady area that gets only brief sun in high summer.  Planted in handsome (and unbelievably heavy, almost immovable) cast-iron planters are box plants which I am training into spheres.  One day they will be perfect, precise balls.  Yes, they will.  Between them are two large acers


with an under-planting of white saxifrage.


They have sat in these pots for three or four years and are now very pot bound.  I shall knock them out soon (won’t that be easy?), plant them in the garden

DSM_4714and replace with a pair of smaller, pot grown dissectums.


Rhodohypoxis will bloom for several weeks in spring and I place alpine-pans and containers about to add splashes of colour.


But I need to put them in semi-shade too as they hate prolonged drying out.


Also in partial shade is an old cooking pot filled with lilies.  Here, in a semi-enclosed space beneath a wisteria arbour, the shade helps prevent baking


and accentuates a heady scent.


I keep some pots by the greenhouse until required.  Then I wheel them into position,


Lilium ‘Everest’

leave them to perform and then wheel them out again.


Some plants do less well than others.  These orange lilies were a scraggly disappointment and I quickly shooed them back off to the greenhouse-holding-area.  The pineapple lily (Eucomis bicolor) did rather better (and mostly hides a wide, shallow, ornate pan which I dislike).


Talking of failure, you might want to ensure that your mix of container grown tulips are the same height.  Though it barely mattered in this planting fiasco – most of these dwarf reds failed to bloom anyway.  Bah.


Finally, out on the car park and in full sun all day long are two concrete planters. Over the years I’ve tried various plants in them including hebes and, above, a yellow helianthemum.


But it is this combination of helichrysum and trailing pink pelargoniums that I finally settled on.  A bit blousy perhaps; even a bit bridal.  But I rather like it.  And thankfully so does the Priory owner.  And that, actually, is all that matters.

I don’t own the Priory.


I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all …


Looking south from the Priory greenhouses.  Dec 2013



26 thoughts on “Of Pots And Pans

  1. I’ve had this window open on my computer… since you first posted this and it is now June! I’m so glad I finally got back to it. Great uses of pots! So many lovely ideas to borrow 🙂 Thanks for sharing those ideas!


  2. Lots to inspire here – I found the cacti corner particularly eye-catching and have a similar corner to fill here. I think you may have provided the perfect excuse to actually have MORE pots not less! Ferns in logs? Wonderful! Happy Christmas and abundant 2014!


    • Hi Caro, more is less I think?! It hadn’t occurred to me to share my ferny logs before now – glad you liked them. As I do. With the woodcutting season upon me I shall be looking our for more. Happy New Year. Dave


    • The Little Island is barely visible at the moment, Gwennie. Only a teeny bit peeking out of the very high water in the east pond. Lovely Christmas had thank you and raring to get back to work but everything is all soooo sodden, I’m a little stymied. Happy New Year! Dave.


  3. You seem to have a helluva lot of containers considering that you say you don’t have many. Every year I say I’m not going to plant up as many but by the end of the season they seem to have multiplied. Have yourself a very merry Christmas and a successful gardening new year.


  4. After years of only being able to garden in containers the joy of having my own soil to plant into at last meant I shunned pot growing. Well, apart from my hostas which wouldn’t last at all in the borders. (They don’t do particularly well in pots either, despite copper bands). This is such an inspiring post though. Every year I say I’ll do some lilies in pots and never do. Well there’s my first New Year’s resolution sorted. The price of nice containers tends to put me off but I have started visiting flea markets so I’m keeping a look out. Wishing you a fabulous Christmas and a fantastic gardening year ahead of us. Lou x


    • Hi Lou, oddly the hostas at the Priory don’t seem to be too bothered by slugs nor snails (and the one in the above pot isn’t protected at all). My first garden was sooooo small that I could only plant in containers too and though I no longer need to, I do like being able to move plants about for effect. I would certainly recommend that you plant some lily pots – so long as you’re prepared to do battle with The Beetle. As for cheap pots – I always lookout for sales and discounts and snap up a couple more than I might need. I can always use them at work. And you’d be surprised how often I am asked to clear out sheds etc by clients – and often there are beautiful old terracotta pots being thrown out too! Needless to say those don’t go to the tip. Hope your Christmas was fabulous too – or at least warm, loving and funny. Dave


  5. I shy away from too many pots but now you have given me some ideas of plants I want to pot up regardless of the watering constraints! I shall be off to the wood pile as soon as possible to find suitable containers for some ferns and I shall be stuffing some sempervivums in my walls.


  6. What a great selection of lovely planters and pots, the white lilies are gorgeous, I’m not terribly good with containers apart from the lilies and the citrus has to live in pots so perhaps that’s enough.


    • Thanks Christina. Citrus in pots always make me think of black mildew, scale insect and red spider mite. (I once worked in a not very good garden centre). I’m sure yours on the other hand are lovely. I have thought of growing one at the Priory and wheeling it away to the greenhouse for the winter. Dave


    • Hi Helen, I know but I haven’t the courage! I do know that I should and that the aeonium would then branch nicely but I just can’t bring myself to make the cut. It has grown ridiculously tall. I’ll try and pull myself together. D


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