Summer splash

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Planting Ideas -

When I found this tar­nished old chest, I knew it would make the per­fect house-warm­ing gift for a friend who had just moved and had other things to think about ahead of fur­nish­ing her south-fac­ing bal­cony. I love the con­tainer for its shape and colour and knew it was right when I dis­cov­ered the ul­tra­ma­rine colour inside of the lid. Nat­u­rally, the plant se­lec­tion has to have an ex­otic feel, ra­di­ate summer and heat, and thrive in bright sun­light.

How to achieve the look

Con­tainer A deep, me­tal con­tainer lends it­self well to plant­ing as it can ac­com­mo­date a gen­er­ous quan­tity of com­post and a de­cent layer of drainage. As this con­tainer was for a gift, I wanted it to be light, so I cov­ered the drainage holes with crocks and filled a third of the planter with hy­droleca, a use­ful ag­gre­gate for drainage and used in hor­ti­cul­ture. Use a good-qual­ity, multi-pur­pose com­post with added slow-re­lease fer­tiliser to give the plants suf­fi­cient nu­tri­ents for the first few weeks. Plants, cul­ti­va­tion and care Per­si­caria run­ci­nata ‘Pur­ple Fan­tasy’ is the star of this ar­range­ment. I love its leaves and it de­vel­ops small, white flow­ers in late summer. Hi­bis­cus ‘Ma­hogany Splen­dour’ picks up the colour of the mark­ings on the leaves of Per­si­caria, but its deeply lobed, ser­rated out­line con­trasts with their shape. Both Cal­i­bra­choa and San­vi­talia are re­li­able per­form­ers and will flower all summer long. I use stronger plants as sup­port, and weave them through the dis­play for ef­fect. These plants are gen­er­ally not frost tol­er­ant, so keep them in a shel­tered po­si­tion or cover them with hor­ti­cul­tural fleece or any light fab­ric overnight un­til the dan­ger of frost has passed.

If you tease some shoots of Per­si­caria and Hi­bis­cus through the other plants and vice versa, slightly con­trol their growth and feed the con­tainer with liquid food weekly, you will cre­ate a stun­ning, long-last­ing dis­play. Plants (see above) 1 Hi­bis­cus ‘Ma­hogany Splen­dour’ A ver­sa­tile fo­liage plant that is also fan­tas­tic for flower ar­range­ments, the leaves are darker in di­rect sun, but it also grows well in semi-shade. Hardy in mild climes. 75cm. USDA 8a-11. 2 Cal­i­bra­choa Su­per­bells Red (= ‘Us­cali28’) Free flow­er­ing all summer with no need to dead­head. Blood-red flow­ers. May – October. 45cm.

3 Per­si­caria run­ci­nata ‘Pur­ple Fan­tasy’ Small, white pom­poms of flow­ers from Au­gust on­wards. Hardy in mild ar­eas, spreads slowly from rhi­zomes. Au­gust – Septem­ber. 50cm. RHS H5.

4 Cal­i­bra­choa Can-can Black Cherry A darker-red form of Su­per­bells Red, above. May – October. 45cm.

5 San­vi­talia ‘Inca’ Golden-yel­low flow­ers with healthy, dark-green leaves. May – October. 10-20cm.

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