Potted plants can turn up the aesthetic volume in small and large spaces.
There are stacks of good reasons to go potty in the garden, not least of which is the recent hot, parched conditions that make even the sturdiest ground planted specimens gasp, shrivel and fry.
Potted plants can be easily monitored and irrigated, rearranged to suit light and heat conditions that alter with the seasons, and with the variety of form, size, colour and texture of containers available, give a depth and display that can be easily swapped and changed as you fancy.
You might go all cottagey in the spring, with baskets and bowls of pretty coloured annuals, and switch to “architectural’’ strength like the succulents, cactus, spikey cordylines and yuccas to see out the summer, when you’re more likely to be away or inattentive for a patch.
Apartment and townhouses
If you are contained by apartment or townhouse living, pots are your outside furniture and so placed and colour-coordinated for your ‘look’. I am a big pot fan and love to have several plants coexisting therein to turn up the aesthetic volume.
If one is a tall spindly variety, a shorter, bushier, rambling co-tenant can fill out the under story. It reminds me of growing up in a large family and having to share space. Yin and yang: opposites can reflect what’s best in the other at close quarters.
If plants are scented, you can move them to maximise the effect. A potted plant outside my window sent its lovely perfume lifted by a gentle breeze up into my senses; a closer look showed me my Ervatamia coronaria was coming into flower. Also known as East Indian rosebay, grape jasmine and moonbeam, this ornamental shrub is fairly indistinct when not in bloom.
I have had it for four years in a large terracotta pot, where it is co-tenant with Variegated Rhoeo, the latter’s striking striped cream and pink leaves a foil for the ervatamia‘s deep green glossy, but essentially mundane, foliage. But its beautiful snow white flowers are its crowning glory.
I look upon this low-care plant like a middle child. It’s not the attention-seeking first-born, nor the demanding youngest, just the plodder, who gets on with it, but then surprises unexpectedly. It asks little except a weekly watering and a dose of liquid fertiliser once every couple of months. It reminds me of the Gardenia but is easier to get along with. Mine has only shown bad temper once, going all jaundice on me. But a couple of tablespoons of epsom salts righted the mineral imbalance, and it bounced back heartily.
In the open ground, the Ervatamia will grow to about three metres, but with pinch-tipping new growth and pruning, it makes an enthusiastic pot specimen and can be moved to where its fragrance is most appreciated. Its wood has been used to make perfume and it has even been used as a dental anaesthetic and for herbal remedies.
If you are a beginner gardener, start with a few pots to find your feet and watch your plants and confidence grow.