One-Pot-Wonder

April glory in a pot

April Glory in a pot

Got a bit of outdoor space? A paved area perhaps?... some steps leading up to your door?

Pot-gardening is my first love, and just because I now have a garden doesn't mean I�m giving it up. This is my monthly pot-diary, in which I take a medium-sized terracotta pot, and plant it up with a different combination of plants that catch my eye each month as I loiter in the nursery aisles.

This is complete and utter, un-ashamed and un-abashed instant gratification. Of course most plants often happily last for longer than a month in a pot, and the last thing I expect anyone to do is rip out happy growing plants and replace them with different ones just for the sake of it - I'm just doing it monthly because I want you to be able to hitch your wagon to mine and plant up your pot whenever YOU feel like it, rather than having to wait for the appropriate time.

Have fun - and please remember these are only ideas - if you feel like copying that's great, but it's only really meant to be a suggestion... please yourself... always.

Agapanthus 101

 How to grow Agapanthus

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My first day off yesterday, in just short of a year, and I got to spend it ogling at pretty flowers with the marvellous Debora who lunches with me irregularly, and shares my passion for extremely bad television.

We were at the RHS Spring Show – that vast hall, with the concentrated scent of new fresh growth, punctuated by narcissi, hyacinth, mimosa…depending on where you are standing.

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I am a sucker for spring…I cannot tell you how many bluer-than-blue corydalis, whiter-than-white anemones; how many tiny pots of scented pelargoniums I have bought at these shows – they totally see me coming. This year I was utterly sidetracked though, by Agapanthus. Hoyland Plant Centre, who hold the National Collection of Agapanthus, had a stand, complete with a lovely, geeky table explaining the different stages of growth, and (crucially) small plants in 9cm pots, and divided sections of larger plants, which I can actually afford.

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We went upstairs and sat down to listen to Steve give a talk on Agapanthus, and, as usual, I learned more from this twenty minute question and answer session than I’d gleaned from years of reading books or internet. One person with a passion, who knows his subject inside out and is able to explain it in plain English – the whole audience was rapt.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I learned.

There are two different types of Agapanthus. Deciduous and Evergreen. Deciduous are hardy pretty much everywhere. Evergreen need to be in the south (or see below for methods of protection).

Compost.

Needs to be well-drained. Steve uses two parts ordinary multi-purpose mixed with one part sharp sand or grit. Treat them mean. Too many nutrients will produce leaves and no flowers. (see below for fertiliser)

 Root restriction.

The rumours are true; these plants like their roots restricted at first. This helps the rhizome to form and bulk up, allowing for flowering. Obviously they therefore do well in pots. Here is the kind of pot-bound-ness that is perfect for an agapanthus. Don’t re-pot until this level is achieved.

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Here’s a plant that is too pot-bound and needs re-potting:

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If you want to plant in the ground and the roots are not yet congested enough, sink them inside a pot with the bottom removed.

 Feeding.

Feed regularly with a high potash feed (that’s the ‘K’, or Potassium in your ‘NPK’ fertiliser; their feed is 30% potash) from March to September. This will encourage flowering.

 Winter care.

Give containers a really good soaking in November, buy a bag of bark chippings and mound them over the crown of the plant (in amongst the leaves if it’s evergreen) and, if you can move them, bring them inside somewhere frost-free (evergreen will need light, deciduous won’t) for the winter. If you can’t move them, wrap the container with bubble wrap and then the whole thing with fleece. If you’re in a sheltered area you’ll get away without doing this, but if your plant is super-precious to you, then Steve says you should do it anyway.

In the border, just use bark chippings and mound them up over the buds.

 Dividing

Use a knife that’s an appropriate size for whatever you’re chopping. Steve likes his meat-cleaver. He also uses one of those Nigella-type mezzaluna things for smaller plants. He looks rather better than Nigella wielding the thing. It is a sight to behold. Sorry I didn’t get a picture.

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Hack away…these plants are tough, but if you are using something serrated, then be sure to shave the cut with a knife afterwards so that the wound can heal cleanly (it’s the difference between having a clean cut and a graze on your skin – clean cuts heal better and quicker. Leave the pieces to heal over for 24 hours before re-planting in the compost above. If you’re re-planting in the ground then you don’t need to do the plastic pot trick if the plant has flowered the previous year and has flower-buds on it – the rhizome is sufficiently bulky.

Here is the inimitable Steve with some of his cleavers. IMG_6709

I have a container-grown agapanthus that I’ve neglected for years and hasn’t flowered for the last two or three. It’s so pot-bound that it’s pushing itself out of the container. I was about it release it from its pot, chop it up and re-plant in the border, but Steve says I should re-pot it first in a larger pot, feed and mollycoddle it for another year, and then chop it up, once it’s flowering again – invaluable advice, brilliantly delivered.

I bought a beautiful chunk of Agapanthus praecox from Hoyland – an evergreen that I’m going to put with all my other agapanthus  in a special new bed I’m creating….updates soon.

 

Snowdrops and Happiness

Snowdrops, gone over but not forgotten from Laetitia Maklouf on Vimeo.

I made a little video…many reasons but mainly because I sit around tapping away at my computer for far longer than I strictly enjoy. Doing a video takes less time, and I get to smile at you (yes, all three of you….love you mum, dad, hunk). I like smiling…and thinking aloud.

This one is about what to do with your gone-over snowdrops (yes, either plant them, or give them away). I may do more, if I am not laughed out of town… Thanks for indulging me *smiles*

 

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In other, much more sumptuous news, I’m taking part in a competition with Neom Organics (amazing bath, body and smelly candles company that use only organic ingredients and NO nasties whatsoever). They’re celebrating spring with a big Happiness Prize Package. I love their stuff, particularly the candles and reed diffusers which I tend to use in the winter when I’m desperate to be reminded of warmer weather and the wonderful scent of Spring and Summer.

There’s a big bundle of prizes on offer (including books by me) – click here, or on the images to check it out, and good good luck!

Oh, and I also have a special discount code for you to use at Neom – just sign up (below), and I’ll send it to you….don’t worry, you can always unsubscribe when you’ve got the code…and I’ll never ever share your details with anyone else – it wouldn’t be cricket.

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Take-home Chelsea: Cleve

Remember Chelsea?

I’ve been meaning to do a few blogs about doing Chelsea at home but, like the British summer, I am slow at getting into gear this year…

A few stand-out things have stayed with me since Chelsea, and they won’t go away. I think this is an excellent marker of VERY GOOD STUFF. Hurrah for slowness.

Cleve West’s garden for Brewin Dolphin was my instant favourite. Not JUST because of the frothy, billowing planting (which, if you know me at all, was bound to appeal), but more importantly because all that froth had a foil…

…my eyes could dance over bliss, and then have a rest

The planting was staggeringly beautiful (this IS Cleve after all)

Ferns and alchemilla creeping, with irises, euphorbia, poppies ammi and matthiasella holding their hands, and then the whole thing crowned by cirsium and crambe (which wasn’t even out, but was all the more beautiful for that…I do love the PROMISE of something don’t you?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get this at home any time soon is tough without access to a Russian oligarch

…those amazing yew monoliths need years and years of growth and clipping…this is gardening for your grandchildren.

But you CAN do it small, and get the same effect.

This is one of those occasions where if you have little or no space, you win. You can fill a space with these, and get that same sense of majesty and softness because your garden is within each container. In the ground it would just look a bit embarrassing because the topiary would feel too small.

 

You need:

Container. Make them beautiful. This is one of those times where you should probably pay more than is strictly comfortable. Mine is from Crocus, for whom I regularly review products. Their own-brand terracotta pots are distinctly lovely, with a soft apricottyness about them. Get your pot first and then choose your plants accordingly.

A piece of topiary. Box or yew, but for Cleve-ness, choose dark, mysterious yew.

Some froth. Fine to go and find some frothy bedding like diascia or verbena at the garden centre, but for less faffing next year I’d go for little ferns, alchemilla mollis, or erigeron.

Method:

I use a half and half mix of multi-purpose and john innes 2, and I usually bung in a handful of fertiliser granules if I have them to hand. I plant slowly and carefully because I enjoy it. I water diligently and always put a big saucer under the pot so that the compost can soak moisture up from the bottom. With terracotta pots like these, I also water the outside of the pot when it’s hot.

A courtyard full of these, or a long path lined with them? Fabulous.

Slow things…

I love slow things.

Here’s something I made almost a year ago, when I was rushing around being very un-slow, filming stuff for telly.

Succulent off-sets, pinched off and squidged into the gritty-compost-filled frog of a brick. (You can get the recipe here).

It was done in haste (and many, many times over, because that’s what you have to do with telly). I don’t have a ‘before’ pic and I can’t find the clip anywhere…but it is ridiculously easy to do. What I didn’t get to mention then (because with telly you can’t ever really say stuff that YOU think is relevant) is that a succulent will take its own, very sweet time to spread.

These little babies are the result of almost a year of benign neglect.

I like that.

 

George and his swamp

I’ve been meaning to do a quick update on the swamp I made for George back in January.

 

 

Suffice to say, George is comfortable.

Here it was in January:

 

Also, late to the billion dollar party, I know, but I am finally having a love affair with Instagram (although I do want to add that that THE LENS OF LIFE DOES’T HAVE VASELINE, (or apricotty, 70’s filters) so I shall probably fall out of love at some point.