I love what they do with pots in the UK and through North America – the large, mixed pot thing, in which a whole lot of complementary plants are thrown in together, and jostle it out for the summer.
I’ve played a bit with doing the same back here, with moderate success. There’s a couple of things against us, such as the lack of this sort of material for sale in spring (ie tubes of stuff, that is therefore pretty cheap, that have no point-of-sale appeal but are ready to hit the ground running), and occasional fierce temperatures that may mean watering pots a few times of day, or wheeling them under cover.
But these hurdles are anything but insurmountable. Failure is more likely to be a simple result of laziness or ignorance.
What I’ve learned over time (over way too much time, as I’m definitely not one of those people that manages to get straight to the best source of info and experience, and can fast-track their way to proficiency in anything they pursue) is that
- Pots need water, and loads of it. Everyday. The best practice is to have a time of day when you water, everyday. Maybe in your jim-jams over your first coffee in the morning, or with a glass of wine in the gloaming. On really stinking hot or windy days, they may need it twice. It’s also useful to know that their need for water will be in direct proportion to the amount of foliage the pot is carrying ie a whole lot less when you first plant them up than several months later when the pot is jam-packed full of roots, and the foliage is three times the bulk of the planting medium
- Pots need food, and loads of it. A friend’s daughter swims competitively, and when the whole squad come around for breakfast, apparently what they tuck away has to be seen to be believed. It’s not that different to your mixed pot. You’re expecting huge results, and you want them fast. It can’t happen without fuel.
It took me years to understand that no potting mix is going to be able to provide this, without supplementation. Some of the cheaper potting mixes (even with five Aussie standard ticks) contain no nutritional additives, and plants in
them will immediately start to starve. Even the best and most expensive of potting mixes is unlikely to provide more than a couple of months of a moderate level of food. You’ve got to pump those plants like body-builders in full training – like those guys that put away three roast chickens at morning smoko. I always fight this reality, and always suffer for it. I’m not like a friend of mine who was caught pouring yet another watering can of strong-tea-coloured seaweed extract on to a particular favourite pot, and feeling the need to break the awkward moment, chuckled, and stated, a little guiltily, ‘I just love gross feeders’
- Pots don’t last more than a season or two. The reason why the best pots and hanging baskets are seen in the coldest of climates is simply because the winter forces a renewal of all contents every year. In our relatively benign climate (as far as winters go, at least) we expect stuff to last much longer than it can. We have no perception of use-by-date. The truth is that if you plant up a big pot in spring, and it hits its strides in summer, then lasts into the autumn, you’re doing really well. It could then be planted up for a winter/early spring show.
If you’re organized enough (as I will be, one day), you can save money on the replant by taking cuttings or divisions from this years plants for next years planting, but you’ll probably want to do something different then, anyway. In my case this years contents are mostly relegated to the garden, particularly the shrubby contents, or the herbaceous perennials. The annuals just go on the compost.
(For those who made it this far, apologies for the ridiculous layout of this. I’d edit it, then after publishing, photo and text would reassemble themselves apparently at random)