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From an old chimney to a pair of old boots, we love to grow plants in planters, pots and containers. There are so many different designs from very basic everyday pots to elaborate and often beautiful planters, utilitarian raised beds made from wood to complex hanging baskets. Planters are an addition to the garden that no only gives us an opportunity to use spaces that were otherwise difficult to reach, they add something themselves, a structural integrity, design, even colour.
What to look for in a planter
So long as the planter fits your budget, the following are basic must have's when it comes to using a planter:
Match and style
It is surprising how a good planter changes the look of the garden, so for a start you need to match your planter to the environment you are putting it into. For example, a rococo styled, elaborate formed cherub sitting on the head of Bacchus with a dahlia sticking out the top would look far less effective in a garden where the major design element is straight lines, clean cut geometric shapes and simplicity. It belongs more in a cottage garden, or a formal design of the eighteenth century.
Match also the materials - a plastic planter is fine on a patio with lots of neighbours, but might look less effective in the center of a lawn as a centerpiece.
Be sure you are able to open up the drainage of the planter without having to resort to such force the bottom breaks altogether. There is always room in any garden for broken crocks, so do keep your aging pots for laying over drainage holes to keep them from clogging up.
Apart from matching the material to your home and garden, make sure you are aware of the longevity of the pot. Gardens, even the most sheltered ones, can be hard on pots and porous ones have the most trouble, especially in winter when rainwater freezes and the structure can crack.
There are lots of new materials on the market these days that have revolutionized container growing, both in terms of lightness and how they look. Fibreglass and resin containers can mimic stone - especially marble, but are a fraction of the price of 'the real thing'.
Polystone is a combination of a resin base material with actual pieces of stone which gives a stone effect that is so much better than simple moulded plastic used to be. They make super planters and make a real impact.
Similarly, fibrecotta is a material mix of clay and fiberglass - it looks like clay but can be finished to look like terracotta, stone or ceramic. Since it is frost proof, it can be made into larger planters than you would normally have found in the traditional material. Planters made from this material have a stylish look and look fantastic with some rustic salads growing in place.
Modern materials allow a measure of breathing, an important feature when you are trying to keep fungal infections at bay. In the greenhouse you can cool a hot day simply by wetting the container, and not splashing water everywhere as we used to do years ago.
There are many 'extras' that can be quite important when it comes to growing in containers. Perhaps the most useful are those simple ideas that everyone would say, "I wish I'd have thought of that!"
Perhaps the most important protection from pests is horticultural fleece, which you can buy in rolls or in specially formulated shapes to fit over your pot plants. These are ideal for crops, it keeps flying insects off the leaves, and therefore you don't have to worry about butterfly larvae, greenfly and so on.
Be sure you can manage to get the pot into the place you need it without breaking your back in the process! One of the techniques in growing in pots is moving the plants around to change the look, or to simply follow the sun. This task is made more easy, especially on the patio, of you use a wheeled stand - simple really.
Containers need watering more than any other part of the garden - simply because the plant is evaporating away a limited volume of compost. However, a number of watering reservoirs are available if you can't always guarantee to water every day - and you need to regularly water your containers, even if it's raining.