Portable Drama

A container containing a Japanese Maple and a Honoki Cyprus, filled in with complementary coloured cyclamen creates ‘Portable Drama”. Photograph taken by Joy Cullen in Marion Jarvie’s garden.

My favourite chapter was portable drama which in any other book would be called container gardening. Container gardening is the ultimate  for four season gardening; spring bulbs, summer annuals, fall grasses and winter evergreens. I have chosen to list some of Thomas Hobbs  container ideas which are pertinent to all seasons.

  • The container itself must inspire. You have to love it even empty. Utilitarian vessels will never become dream like visions of plantsmanship
  • Use liners in your pots so you can change its contents at will.
  • Placing pots is an art form, envision your pots as pieces of jewelry used to decorate your garden.
  • Group containers into clusters for more impact. Create related families of pots and contents for instant vignettes.
  • Limit your colour palette in any one pot to a maximum of 3 colours plus green.
  • Unusual plants in surprising places provide a charge of excitement. An example is houseplant streptocarpus planted in shaded wall baskets.
  • Make sure all plants in a pot have same care, same needs. Plants will die if their cultural requirements are ignored.
  • Think about drainage. Pots quickly become coffins unless they drain well. Saucers that hold water are also death traps.
  • Provide good rich soil full of nutrition for your plants held hostage in a pot. No bagged soil is good enough. Mix in 50% well rotted or composted manure.
  • Annuals love 20-20-20 fertilizer dissolved in water and applied every 2 weeks.
  • Containers can be left empty or filled with water. Sometimes actually planting a container should be a last choice.
  • Sometimes one plant is all you need.
  • An urn filled with a grass such as Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’ can mimic a fountain.

Containers on a Streetscape in Vancouver BC, photographed by Joy Cullen. An excellent example of “Portable Drama”

And finally an interesting quote. “The fact that most uncreative people do not garden is a blessing and probably saves us  lots of ugly disasters.”

Hobbs, Thomas,  Shocking Beauty. Raincoast Books, Vancouver B.C. 1999.

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