Last sum­mer blast

Be­fore sum­mer’s bright colours dis­ap­pear, Troy Scott Smith cel­e­brates Septem­ber with three con­tainer dis­plays that com­bine a sul­try salvia with bright cos­mos, and sunny ner­ines with soft grasses

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - WORDS TROY SCOTT SMITH PHO­TO­GRAPHS AN­DREW MONT­GOMERY

Three ideas to give con­tainer dis­plays a fi­nal burst of sum­mer colour, from Siss­inghurst’s head gar­dener Troy Scott Smith

This ter­ra­cotta pot is one of sev­eral at Siss­inghurst bought many years ago from a small pot­tery near Si­enna. It sits in an in­ti­mate, en­closed area be­hind an over-sized, aged, oak door that leads from the pot­ting shed yard into the rose gar­den, so it’s one I pass sev­eral times a day. As this area is not gen­er­ally open to vis­i­tors, I can re­lax and have fun with the dis­play here, try­ing out plants and com­bi­na­tions with some in­ter­est­ing re­sults.

How to achieve the look

My start­ing point was to cre­ate a dis­play of suf­fi­cient vol­ume and size to stand up for it­self against the rel­a­tive enor­mity of the wooden door and brick wall. At the same time, I wanted a dis­play that was both gen­er­ous with lay­ers of depth and in­ter­est, and re­laxed in its com­po­si­tion and plant choice. I de­lib­er­ately didn’t want to in­tro­duce com­plex­ity or so­phis­ti­ca­tion; in­stead, I felt that a sub­tlety of con­trast between the so­lid­ity of the wall and the di­aphanous na­ture of the plants would be more com­pelling and sat­is­fy­ing.

When con­sid­er­ing the com­po­si­tion of a par­tic­u­lar dis­play, I tend to think of lay­ers of plant­ing. In this ar­range­ment, I en­gi­neered four lay­ers that are both dis­tinct yet also merge with their neigh­bour. From top to bot­tom, these are Salvia ‘Amis­tad’, Cos­mos bip­pina­tus ‘An­tiq­uity’, Salvia ‘Nachtvlin­der’ and fi­nally Pe­largo­nium sidoides. It is pos­si­ble with this type of ‘layer’ plant­ing to edit out one plant type com­pletely – if, for ex­am­ple, it has gone over pre­ma­turely – and re­place it with an­other plant type with­out dis­turb­ing the over­all ar­range­ment too much.

What I also like about the fin­ished dis­play is the daz­zling ef­fect it gives, like lights be­ing switched on and off in­side a house. You have the sparkle of the cos­mos in shades of sat­u­rated crim­son con­trast­ing with the melan­cholic pur­ple-plum colours of the Salvia ‘Nachtvlin­der’ and pe­largo­nium, and then the light-catch­ing ex­plo­sion of Salvia ‘Amis­tad’. This dis­play is long last­ing with min­i­mal ef­fort; just en­sure you reg­u­larly dead­head the cos­mos.


1 Salvia ‘Amis­tad’ An easy-to-grow Salvia that flow­ers from May to Oc­to­ber from a spring sow­ing. 1.2m. AGM*. RHS H3†.

2 Cos­mos bip­in­na­tus ‘An­tiq­uity’ Flow­ers open a rich crim­son and fade to an­tique bronze-salmon with age. 45cm. RHS H3.

3 Salvia ‘Nachtvlin­der’ A shrubby peren­nial from the Dutch nurs­ery De Hessen­hof. Ma­roon flow­ers, at their best in June, con­tinue into Oc­to­ber with min­i­mal dead­head­ing. 75cm. AGM. RHS H5.

4 Pe­largo­nium sidoides Abun­dant crim­son-black flow­ers con­trast with sil­ver fo­liage. 25cm. AGM. RHS H1C.

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