Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

2

Treat em mean

In hindsight, my display of patio pots last year was disappointing. I love planting up my patio containers each summer. I aim for slightly different displays each year. My usual method of mixing annuals and basket plants with tender perennials wasn’t successful. It wasn’t the plants fault. I was just too busy working at Darsham to maintain them properly. Realistically the early summer period horticulturally of late April to late May is too hectic now for me to have a successful display at home unless I make some drastic changes.

One large terracotta pot was moved to a rarely used part of the garden. It was neglected, rarely watered but fed now and again with a liquid feed. The combination of Euphorbia ‘Mellifera’ and Begonia ‘Firewings Red’ flourished and sparked a rethink for 2016. I have taken the decision (gulp) to completely change the planting style of my patio.

I am aiming for simple but striking pots. Plants that in spite of a large pinch of neglect will nevertheless thrive. They will be watered but not mollycoddled. A slow release fertiliser will be mixed with the compost. Ideally the deadheading requirements will be low and there will be no attraction for cabbage butterflies.

Some annuals will be included if they are up to the challenge. There are some instantly obvious choices like lavenders, grasses and hardy succulents. Personally I want to incorporate rich, exotic and unusual foliage . Ideally there will be varied heights and textures with lots of hot summer colour.

My patio has two main areas; one protected and in full sun and the other side is in shade until the sun moves to its late afternoon position.
It presents quite a big challenge as I am only considering plants or seeds that are currently available here in England.

My containers range from large terracotta pots to shallow butlers sinks and clay chimneys. I don’t mind bringing a few of the smaller pots in for winter if they continue to earn their keep as houseplants. However similar to many other people I don’t have the space, energy or the manpower to be moving the larger specimens inside before the first frosts. This Is my shopping list.

Phormium ‘Margaret Jones’

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The leaves seem created by an artist interrupted while mixing a palette, windy hardy and great for coastal exposure. Height 1.5m.

Phormium ‘Jester’

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Unusual pink centred leaves with bright green edges. Height 1m.

Fuchsia triphylla ‘Thalia’

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An old reliable fuchsia with tubular shaped orange red flowers.. The leaves are dark bronze adding a tropical feel. This slightly shrubby fuchsia flowers constantly from June to October . Being tender this will have to be brought inside for frost protection, right now its mid-January and my old friend is still flowering happily on a window sill. Its upright habit calls for a companion. I may experiment and under plant it with the wonderful lime green scented pelargonium `Charity’ that grows rapidly in the summer months and would provide a full ,bushy and fragrant base.

Pelargonium ‘Charity’

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Salvia argentea

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The leaves of this salvia are enormous, soft and felt-like . The flowers are unremarkable , and I will probably be tempted to remove them and grow this purely for its foliage. Height 90cm.

Euphorbia myrsinite

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This extraordinary hardy euphorbia has multiple trailing stems that have really interesting geometrical appearance. A low euphorbia but trailing to 50cm. I think a few of these could be really effective planted in a terracotta strawberry planter.

Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow

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Colourful variegated foliage that includes shades of lime, cream and green in spring, then the leaves develops warmer tones of pinks and reds. Small green flowers appear as summer approaches. Height 50cm.

Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’

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A centred black eye highlighted by acid green flowers. Height 80cm.

Crassula sarcocaulis

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This bushy little succulent has a bonsai appearance and can survive -5° , the summer flowers are star shaped and can be pink or white. Height 30cm.

Agave Americana

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The RHS published an article in ‘The Plantsman’ in 2015 on the most winter hardy Agaves grown successfully here in England. This species survived in -12 °. Slow growing, thankfully as can reach 3m.

Agave filifera

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Smaller and more manageable long term, this agave has dense mid green spiky rosettes . Hardy to -15°. Max height 50cm.

Agave parryi var. parryi

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This agave has a thicker appearance like a giant artichoke . Hardy to -15°.Max height 40cm.

Melianthus major

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For a larger container this giant has unique foliage. I have only managed to get flowers on one occasion as this dies back in a harsh winter. I am choosing this for its height; one season can reward you with 1.8 m of lush tropical foliage. The lower stems have a tendency to be bare and can be under planted with Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ which would contrast beautifully.

Sedum telehium ‘Purple Emperor’

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This sedum has dark purple fleshy leaves topped with maroon flowers. Height 50cm.

Sedum spurium ‘Dragons Blood’

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This sweet little sedum spreads to 30cm with deep burgundy leaves and red flowers in late summer. Height 10cm.

Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’

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Golden zingy foliage cascading down to 60cm its flowers are insignificant, it’s all about the foliage which eventually becomes bronze for the winter months.

Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’

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My favourite miniature Sedum, each tiny silver rosette is like a perfect flower bud. This little beauty loves neglect and poor soils, perfect! Height 10cm.

Sedum morganianum

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A splendid trailing tender succulent perfect for a hanging basket in a hot sheltered spot. Trails to 60cm.

‘Lotus berthelotii’

An unusual trailing annual with beak like tropical flowers.

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Chamaerops humilis ‘Vulcano’

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A slow growing hardy palm with stiff fan shaped leaves. Height 1.2m.

Pennisetum advena rubrum

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I am a sucker for purple grasses. This exotic clump forming Pennisetum has cream foxtail flowers all summer long. Max height 1.5m.

Tradescanthia pallida ‘Purpurea’

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Given the right shady spot the majority of houseplants can be put outdoors for the summer months. The trailing habit and deep purple leaves of this Tradescanthia would suit a planting scheme in a tall terracotta pot. Trailing to 60cm.

Aeoniums are tender succulents , but perform perfectly well as winter house plants. Full sun and weekly water will suffice.

‘Magnificum’

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‘Tabuliforme’

'Tabuliforme'

‘Zwartkop’

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‘Decorum’

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‘Sunburst’

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Two new fairly hardy beautiful begonias are now available. These can withstand temperatures as low as 3°. These are both best grown in semi-shade. The pinkish flowers are unimportant, it’s all about the fabulous foliage. Height 60cm.

Begonia ‘Garden Angel Plum’

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Begonia ‘Garden Angel Silver’

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Begonia luxurians

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This is so sumptuous an exception has to be made. ‘Luxurians’ is tender and will have to be brought inside before the frosts arrive. This is an extremely cool Brazilian begonia that looked after properly can grow to 1.8m. The hand shaped leaves are huge with coppery undersides. Great Dixter uses this in their exotic borders.

Bedding begonias.
All of these are drought tolerant and low maintenance. I am a real fan of the new varieties of  begonias. They don’t have to be just pastel shaded, flouncy or old fashioned. In my experience you get a better display if you don’t mix varieties or colours.

‘Glowing Embers’

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Cocoa Enchantment’

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‘Boliviensis’

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‘Sutherlandii’

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Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

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The only Miscanthus realistically that can be container grown. Upright but with a gentle arch . Height 1.2m.

Thymus pseudolanuginosus

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Lovely fuzzy thyme ideal for dangling down the edge of a shallow container. Good for the kitchen too.

Rosemary officinalis ‘Haifa’

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Spectacular tumbling rosemary.

Eucomis bicolor

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A quirky interesting but reliable hardy bulb for late summer. Height 60cm.

Gazanias  ‘Splendens Mix’

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Better known as the African daisy, drought tolerant Gazanias can be added in late May as summer bedding.

Pelargonium gibbosum

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Night scented with rarely found pale lemon flowers. Height 40cm.

Pelargonium sidoides

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Deep magenta delicate flowers with grey foliage. Height 25cm.

Rudbeckia goldstrum

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The classic rudbeckia. Striking, dependable and long lasting. Height 0.6m.

Thalictrium aquilegiifolium `Thundercloud’

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Ferny foliage with fluffy lilac flower clusters in mid-summer. This thalictrium is fully hardy and performs best in partial shade. Height 1m.

Erigeron karvinskianus `Profusion’

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A delightful daisy that cascades happily anywhere and flowers from June to November. A real winner. Height 30cm.

Sempervivums
More commonly known as houseleeks, they are well-matched with shallow containers and are prolific baby makers. When they are planted collectively and topped with fine gravel they can resemble tiny coral reefs. Here’s a few of the more interesting varieties:

Sempervivum ‘Black mini’

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Sempervivum ‘Boule de Neige’

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Sempervivum ‘Dallas’

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Sempervivum ‘Flasher’

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Sempervivum ‘Jubilee Tricolor’

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Sempervivum X barbulatum `Hookeri’

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Verbena bonariensis `Lollipop’

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A compact version of its parent, this will self-seed, but is that so bad? Minimum attention is rewarded with masses of purple bee and butterfly friendly flowers. Height 0.6m.

Alchemilla Mollis

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This is and always has been a great basic. It’s particularly attractive after a light shower, the when the hairy leaves catch the rain droplets. I cut it back quite hard before the flowers go to seed, which stimulates new fresh growth. Height 60cm

Portulaca `Red Flame’

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Low growing and spreading with succulent foliage. Trails to 60cm.

Dichondra reopens `Emerald falls’

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A dense but elegant foliage annual trailing to 1m.Tender.

Mesembryanthemum `Gelato Pink’

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A shocking pink tender daisy with succulent leaves. Height 10cm.

Echeverias are evergreen succulents that vary in size and hardiness. Here’s a selection of the best hardier varieties currently available in the UK.

Echeverias ‘Phyllis Collins’

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Echeverias agavoides ‘Ebony’

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Echeverias ‘Carnival’

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Echeverias ‘Nodulosa’

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limegarden@sky.com • 31st January 2016


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2 Comments on Treat em mean

Jacqueline Tomnie said : Guest Report 7 months ago

I found your website really useful in trying to identify a plant whose label I have lost - did not find it on your website but have made a note of really lovely plants to try for 2017.

Niamh said : Guest Report 7 months ago

Thanks Jacqueline, so nice to know, my new neglected patio pots still love good in the winter now. Cheers.

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