creating beautiful summer flower containers

Sarah discusses her favourite varieties to grow together for colourful containers throughout the summer months.

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I’ve collected together four different containers to experiment with this season so that we can, if they’re a success, sell them as container collections next season, and I’m really excited about them actually, they’ve been fun to draw together and I only planted them last week and so we need to look at them again in a couple of months’ time and see what they’re looking at because hopefully then they’ll be billowing over the sides of the pots. So, they’re very freshly planted and aren’t looking as good as they will but I still think they look good.

So the first one is a pink collection, so a pink pot collection, and so I’ve got this lovely nicotiana called ‘Whisper Mixed’ in the middle to give height, and the brilliant thing about this nicotiana is - this tobacco flower - is it’s newly bred and it’s incredibly disease resistant, because there’s so many of the tobacco flowers that get mildew and mosaic virus and this one just doesn’t, and so honestly it goes on flowering for five or six months, so it’s a wonderful thing for pots.

And then, not yet established really very well is this new gaura which is a lovely deep pink one, you know, darker pink than the normal creamy/whitey one, and that is just beginning to grow now, but that will come up I hope sort of and push through the nicotiana in sort of a lovely haze. And then to give it bit of a heart to the pot is I’ve got this little strawberry zinnia which is a new variety of zinnia which again is really well-bred for our less sunny, slightly greyer skies than a lot of the zinnias so it’s ideally suited to the UK, and I think overall, that will flower for four or five months, look good in a prominent position, it’s very good for the pollinators because of course the zinnias and the gaura and the tobacco flowers are fantastic for pollinators, stuffed full of nectar and pollen. So overall I’ve got high hopes for that one.

And then over here I’ve got a white, and this is three plants in this one, and actually I’ve just deadheaded one of them – the osteospermum – so you can hardly see that, but that’s here, that’s going to flower around the base, and then hopefully, I’ve got this white phlox, which is a 21st Century, so called 21st Century phlox, and that’s going to tumble over the sides a little bit, and then to give height in the middle I’ve got good old cosmos, and this is the container dwarf variety called ‘Sonata’, so it won’t you know, bipinnatus would get to here, and would make it a bit top heavy but I think that will work really well, and so again with both of those, what I’m aiming at is just like when I make a flower arrangement, a hand-tied bunch or a vase, I always aim to have a heart and a horizon because I think it just makes any kind of collection more interesting. So here I’ve got a heart and a horizon with both those two.

Now to be honest, my favourite of all is this purple one, and just three things in it, and so I’ve got this wonderful lavender called multifida, and then ‘Cherry Pie’, the heliotrope which has a wonderful scent of cherry pie, particularly in the evening that’s really strong so I’ve just deadheaded that as well so it’s not particularly flowery at the moment, and then this beautiful phlox again in this 21st Century series, long flowering, very reliable, puts up with lots of soil and different conditions. So I’ve got a brilliant for pollinators - all three – fabulous scent and wonderful texture and of course, the lovely purple colour.

And then finally over here, I love this one too, which is really sort of crimson-magenta collection, and this is rather surprising, this really healthy looking plant in the middle is actually a penstemon called ‘Husker Red’, and how great is that – it does have white flowers – and I haven’t decided, I may well actually take away the flowers and just grow it for this beautiful, really healthy really kind of vigorous looking foliage. And that’s the perfect foil to another of the 21st Century series phlox, and then this beautiful first year flowering Sweet William, it’s in the sweet series, and actually by mistake, annoyingly I’ve got crimson and purple in the same pot, so I’m going to need to swap that around I think, I haven’t quite decided. But so again, basically three or four plants, I’ve got my heart and I’ve got my horizon, so magenta-crimson, purple, white and pink. I love them, I think they’re going to be brilliant.

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