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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