Tag Archives: Plants

Plant Decoration

Herbaceous borders bring wonderful colour in summer but die down to next to nothing in the winter, so it is good to provide an evergreen structure of plants to get you through all the seasons. These can also contribute to the ‘architecture’ of the garden, creating levels, screens, and even sculpture. You can plan to have taller shrubs at the back of the borders, slowly graduating toward the front, or you can make more structured steps. You can arrange rows of small, lightly screening plants across the garden to create a living screen, and you can use specimen trees or neatly trimmed topiary as living sculpture.

The colour scheme can he planned against this basic structure. The decorative garden room is at its prettiest with plenty of colour. The structural shrubs and trees also can be chosen to make certain there is some colour all the year round — fruit trees for blossom in spring; shrub roses for summer colour and late-flowering clematis and wonderful berries, such as those of the pyracantha, in autumn, and of holly in winter. This display can he complemented by autumn-flowering bulbs such as colchicum, schizostylis, and cyclamen.

But the most variety of colours can be added with pots and containers. There is always a choice of seasonal colour at garden centres. By planting up in movable pots, you can easily put the colour where you want it and replant with new seasonal colour as the old blooms die.

Colour creates much more impact if it is kept to a theme — of blues and pinks, perhaps, or oranges and yellows. This theme can be strengthened with the use of paint and stain on nearby fences, garden buildings, furniture, or even the pots themselves.

Adding decorative colour

In a decorative garden, colour is very important. Not only can the paint you choose suggest mood and ambience, just as it does indoors, it can emphasize the colour scheme of the planting.

The surfaces you paint may be the house walls, walls of outside buildings, or the garden walls. Maybe you have a hopscotch of fencing and trellis work, all of slightly different woods and ages, that has resulted in a visual muddle. Paint them all in the same decorative finish, and you will have a much more coherent look. Or you may have newly erected trellis work that has a year or more to wait for a verdant covering of creepers. Paint it, and you will have a reasonable finish while you wait.

Colour can also be used to highlight areas. You may pinpoint an area destined for a particular colour scheme or you may wish to highlight the planting. Burnt-orange fencing would provide a stunning background for marigolds, while yellow picket would highlight the nodding heads of pansies. Painted fences and surfaces also lend colour throughout the year. They are particularly valuable in winter when many plants have died down.

Ideas with paint

Whether you want to paint your garden wall or a house wall that makes up part of the garden, there is plenty of inspiration to be had. Experiment not only with colour but with technique.

As well as straight colour, you can create depth by layering the colour. Try to add effects such as marble, stone, slate, or moss or by stenciling to a wall. The trick is to consider the scale of the garden.

These effects will have to be seen from much further away than they would be if used inside the house. Even a 10 m/30 ft garden is much larger than the average room, so everything has to be exaggerated a little.

An enchanting little pond, complete with fountain and cherub, adds colour and interest to a shady corner of the garden.

Although you may spend less time in the front garden, colourful plants growing by the door will create a welcoming impression.

Paint Practicalities

Any outdoor paint job has to be able to withstand a lot of beating from the weather, such as frosts, strong winds, torrential rain and the summer sun.

For this reason, it is best to use exterior-quality products. They are less likely to peel and flake, their colours are less likely to fade and they are specifically designed to protect the surface they are covering.

Alternatively, when decorating items such as pots and containers, which are not crucial to the garden structure, you can achieve a reasonably hard-wearing finish using a wider variety of paints over a primer, finished with a varnish.

Whatever you plan to paint or stain, it is important to use primers and varnishes that are compatible with each other, otherwise they may react adversely. Remember too that, if you have the patience and time, several thin layers of paint always produce a more enduring and better-looking finish than one thick one

Choosing Plants for Landscaping

Before making the journey to select plants for your garden make sure you have a clear idea of where you would like to plant them, and the type of soil with which you will be working. Read the label and examine each plant before you buy it to make sure it is right for the spot you have in mind. Buying the wrong plant could waste an entire growing season.

Always check the plant’s label for information about final height and spread and how long it will take to grow to full size. Ask for help if the label doesn’t tell you. Then consider the situation you have in mind for the plant and whether the fully grown specimen will be in scale, and in keeping with its surroundings.

Be sure to check when the plant’s optimal growth season is, or whether the plant has the added bonus of a second season.

Many evergreen variegated plants, such as Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’, are an excellent addition to any garden. This shrub has bright golden-yellow markings on leaves which are retained on the plant throughout the year, and do not easily succumb to weather damage. Cotinuscoggygyia ‘Royal Purple’ is a tall, handsome shrub that, though leafless during the winter, has fluffy pink flowers in summer and rich plum-purple leaves throughout the spring and summer. The leaves turn a dazzling red color in the autumn before they fall.

The small, upright flowering cherry tree, Prunus `Amanogawa’, produces masses of soft pink flowers in the spring and a spectacular show of color in the autumn, as the leaves turn to fiery reds, oranges and yellows, making the tree resemble a bright flame.

Any plant should earn its keep and reward you for your efforts, but no where more so than in a smaller garden, where space is at a premium.

Dwarf conifers are a good choice in a small garden as they will mature without becoming a danger to nearby buildings.

Site Preferences

Every plant has a preference for the ideal conditions it needs in order to grow well, whether it is hot or shady, acid or alkaline, dry or damp, and most will have the greatest of difficulty growing in the wrong position.

Many conditions can be modified, at least to some extent, to extend the range of plants which can be grown. Improve the drainage of a localized wet spot, for example, by incorporating sharp sand or gravel into the soil, and by adding organic matter, such as well-rotted farmyard manure, to encourage worm activity. Dry areas will also benefit from the addition of organic matter, which will hold moisture during the vital summer months. The use of a mulch will also reduce the amount of moisture lost by evaporation and reduce competition from weeds.

Acidic conditions can be modified by the addition of ground limestone or chalk, to raise the pH. It is difficult to lower the pH if the soil is alkaline, however. Flowers of sulphur will have some effect on alkalinity but the difference is only very slight and you will have to repeat the treatment every year. On the whole, it is better to choose plants that will thrive in your soil rather than laboring to change its pH, which may involve a lot of effort for little reward; indeed a great range of plants will not mind a slight alkalinity. If your soil is alkaline, it would be best to stick with growing acid-lovers in containers, and this can he very successful and suitable for many of them. Many fascinating and attractive plants also enjoy growing in acidic conditions, so choose wisely and watch your plants thrive.

Home and Interior Garden

Plants can create an interior style of their own or can be used to enhance existing decorations in your home. Flowering plants add a further dimension by either complementing or contrasting with interior color schemes.

The architectural style of your apartment, its proportions and the way it is decorated will affect the choice of plants you display there. Traditional interiors tend to suit small plants that complement fabrics, wallpapers and other furnishings. Starkly decorated modern rooms can take a bolder statement in the form of larger, more sculptural plants. The other main considerations to take into account when selecting plants for your home are the size of the plants in relation to the room area, the way that they grow and their shape and color.

Plants and Scale

If plants are to make a positive addition to an interior, they must he compatible with the space in terms of both size and shape. A large specimen, for example, needs a spacious, high ceilinged room in order to spread its elegant, arching branches and to make a suitably dramatic impact. These large indoor plants generally grow very slowly, and are cultivated in a wide range of heights, so if the room requires a 2 nil6 ft palm, select one at that height or slightly smaller, you could wait a longtime for a 1 m/3 ft specimen to fill the space you have allowed for it.

The lush, bushy shapes of Soleirolia soleirolii make an ideal choice for a low coffee table. These plants can tolerate bright, indirect light or semi-shady conditions. If you want height and a compact shape, select a climbing plant that can be trained to grow up a moss pole or bamboo stake. Ivies will naturally wrap themselves around poles and stakes and with a little pruning can be trained into the desired shape very easily. Several ivy plants grown together in a large container soon make a tower of green or variegated foliage.

Tiered Displays

Shelving is another useful way to gain height, with the added advantage that you can display a range of plants in oneself contained unit. A multi-tiered etagere is a specially designed piece of plant furniture, consisting of an upright from which stem six or seven small square or circular shelves. It is often made from wrought iron, and was particularly popular in Victorian times. Originals are much sought after, but authentic reproductions are now available thanks to the revived popularity of conservatories.

As a variation, you could create a striped sandwich effect by interspersing green plants with seasonal colors. The advantage of fixed shelving is that it can be used to combine both display areas for plants and storage for other items. Fitting triangular shelves in the corner of a room is an economical way of providing a permanent plant display area. Painted the color of the walls or the wallpaper, the shelves simply merge into the back ground, making the plants the focus. Higher shelves and those above shoulder level should be filled with cascading varieties to avoid only the container being seen, with lower shelves devoted to upward growing types of plants.


Color is another important consideration when it comes to choosing plants for your home. A delicate paint effect or softly toned wallpaper can be swamped by heavy, dark green foliage. However, the pale fronds of fragile ferns or pastel and white flowering plants will enhance a gentle color scheme rather than dominate it. Pale plain colored walls will complement most plants, but introducing foliage or flowering plants into a scheme with floral or patterned wallpaper and furnishings needs more thought. Take a piece of the fabric or wallpaper with you to the garden centre or plant specialist and use this to help you select an appropriate shade of green.

With the huge selection of seasonal flowering plants available, it is quite feasible to create a continuity of color with different varieties throughout. With this in mind, consider widening a window sill to provide a deeper platform for plants. A recessed window fitted with narrow glass or solid shelves provides the ideal support for a display of small bushy or trailing plants; while light loving climbers will quickly provide a green curtain right to the top of the window if the plants are given a series of thin wires to climb up. Climbers can also be encouraged to act as a frame. A climbing plant trained to scramble around a large picture hanging above a mantel piece, for instance, looks stunning.

This wrought-iron candle sconce has been designed to incorporate a small plant such as this ivy. Be careful not to let the candle burn too low and scorch the leaves of the plant.

This moth orchid provides a graceful organic touch to a collection of wall-mounted stone-colored vases.
If sitting plants at the window, it is essential to select ones that can tolerate hot summer rays or at the very least strong, bright light. A light, bright room may be partially separated by using a group of tall plants to create a room divider, usually partitioning, say, a dining space from a sitting area. As an alternative, fill an open shelving unit in the centre of a similar well-lit room with plants that are viewed from both sides. If the light levels on the lower shelves prohibit living plants, use them for storing books or displaying other inanimate objects instead.

Grouping Plants

Metal wall sconces designed to hold candles are easily adapted for trailing plants. Decorative wire wall containers for bathroom and kitchen accessories also make excellent pot holders. A group of these arranged closely together creates a considerable impact. Table top displays are the other obvious choice for many rooms, but most plants hate being moved around, so it is important that they can be left in peace. Narrow console tables require little space and are ideal for the purpose. If the space around the table is restricted, limit the display to upright plants. Bushy or trailing plants can be introduced if they will not be regularly brushed against. Combined with several treasured objects and planted in carefully chosen containers, these create an attractive still life that needs only a lamp to highlight the collection at night.

A group of low-level plants arranged together in one shallow basket or ceramic bowl, is perfect on a coffee table where it will be viewed from above. Put all the plants in one container making it more convenient if they need to be moved temporarily. A central display table needs plants that are attractive from all sides. Several small pots of miniature roses, Exacumaffine (Persian violet) or primulas grouped together when the table is not in use can then be split up to form a pretty line of color for a dinner or lunch party. These plants will be viewed at very close proximity, they need to be in perfect condition and may remain so only for a couple of weeks.

Plants seen at a distance are better able to carry imperfections, especially if they are arranged in a tight group. With a sensitive selection of colors and shapes, considerable impact can be made using relatively small, inexpensive plants. Choose a color theme of, say, white and green where a Dieffenbachia compacta sets the height of the arrangement for a range of smaller, bushier plants such as Thirnieamenziesii (piggyback plant), Syn (goniumand Fittonia).

A trailing tradescantia will add further dimension to the overall shape of the display, and a brilliant white azalea, Argyranthernum frutescens (marguerite) or scented gardenia will provide seasonal interest and variation. The success of these loose, informal groupings relies on establishing a strong central theme. While they offer numerous possibilities of choice and presentation, it is important to remember that the permanent plants must share the same light and temperature requirements.

Watering Plants

Feeding really does pay dividends. If you see a garden with particularly lush and healthy-looking plants, the chances are they have been well fed and supplied with sufficient water. Giving plants sufficient nutrients will ensure strong growth, abundant flowering and fruit production, and make them healthy enough to withstand pests and diseases.

Types of fertilizer

There are two groups of fertilizer: organic and inorganic. The organic ones are derived from natural ingredients, such as other plants (seaweed or nettles), blood, fish or bone, and generally last longer, although they tend to become available to the plant only slowly after application. Inorganic fertilizers are mineral-based and breakdown more quickly after application.

Feeding used to be a job that had to be tackled several times during the course of a season, and sonic enthusiasts still feed their plants once a week or even more frequently with liquid feeds. If you use modem slow-release and controlled-release fertilizers, however, feeding is something you can do just a couple of times a year.

Slow and controlled release fertilizers both allow the nutrients to seep out into the soil over a period of months, but the latter are affected by soil temperature. Nutrients are only released when the soil is warm enough for growth in most plants.

Liquid feeds are more instant in effect and still have a use, being invaluable when plants need a quick pick-me-up. This is especially true of feeds, which are applied directly to the leaves rather than the soil around the roots, and are absorbed straight into the plant’s system. These can have an effect within 3-4 days, compared with up to 21 days for a general granular fertilizer applied around the roots.

Applying fertilizer

In an established garden, you can apply fertilizer in granular form as a dressing around the plants early in the season, or in soluble form as the plants are watered during the spring. For a new plant, mix fertilizer with the soil as it is replaced in the planting hole around the root hall. Lawns will benefit from dressings of mixed weed-killer and fertilizer in the spring and autumn, keeping the grass healthy, and helping fight the effects of any dry periods in summer and cold spells in winter.


Lack of attention when plants are firstplanted can easily kill them if there hasnot been much rain recently.

The best water to use is rain water. If possible, use water butts or tanks connected to the down-water pipe to collect water that falls on the roof of the house, garage or any other building. Tap water can be used but it is best poured first into a barrel and left to breathe before you use it. This allows time for any chlorine used in the treatment of the water to be given off.

Beware hard water that comes from chalky (alkaline) areas. Although your soil may he acidic, the water from your tap may he collected, where the soil is alkaline. Hard water should not be used on ericaceous (lime-hating) plants.

The most important aspect of watering is to always be certain to give the plants a good soaking. A sprinkle on the surface is not enough. If in doubt, dig well into the soil and see how far the moisture has penetrated through the surface.

There are several methods of watering, but a can is probably best for a small number of plants. Alternatively, a garden hose with a spray attachment can be used. For a large number of plants use a sprinkler or dribble hose.

Feeding containers

Container plants require supplementary nutrients to keep them in good health. The quickest way to feed your lawn is with a wheeled spreader and you can usually adjust the delivery rate. Test the rate on a measured area of path first, then sweep up the fertilizer and weigh it to make sure the application rare is correct.


1 Give the plant a good soaking, covering the whole area around the plant where the roots will he. A watering can is ideal for a small area, such as around a newly planted plant that is still getting established.

A controlled- or slow-release fertilizer added to the potting soil at planting time will keep most containers blooming well all summer. Follow the instructions for application rates.

The N:P:K ratio

On the back of the pack of fertilizer, there should he some information about the nutrient it contains, the three most important elements being nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Nitrogen promotes healthy growth of leaves and shoots, phosphorus is needed for healthy root development and potassium improves flowering and fruit production. The ratio is given on the pack because certain plants need some elements in a greater quantity than others.


1. The quickest way to feed your lawn is with a wheeled spreader and you can usually adjust the delivery rate. Test the rate on a measured area of path first, then sweep up the fertilizer and weight to make sure the application rate is perfect.

2 An easy way to give your lawn a liquid boost is to use a sprinkler system into which you can introduce special fertilizer pellets. It will feed the lawn as it waters.

3 A dribble or seep hose is an efficient method of supplying water to exactly where it is needed. It is snaked around those plants that need to be watered and left permanently in position. It can be covered with a bark mulch, to hide it. When connected, it provides a slow dribble of water.


1. Give the plant a good soaking, covering the whole area around the plant where the roots will be. A watering can is ideal for as small area, such as around a newly plant that is still growing and establishing.

2. If you need to water a large number of plants, a sprinkler is a good method of providing water. To make certain that you provide sufficient water, place a jam jar or other container within the sprayed area, to give a rough idea of how much water has been delivered. It should be at least 2.5 cm/1 in full if the watering is to do any good.

3. A hose-ended sprayer like this is a good way to to apply a soluble fertilizer for a quick response. You can use this type of hose-ended sprayer for beds and borders as well as for the lawn.


1. Most established plants, benefit from annual feeding. Apply a slow- or controlled-release fertilizer in spring or early summer, sprinkling it around the bushes. Sprinkle it our further where most of the active root growth is.

2. Hoe it into the surface so that it penetrates the root area more quickly.

3. Unless rain is expected, water it in. This will make the fertilizer active more quickly in dry conditions

Plant Potting

Never be in too much of a hurry to put a plant into a larger container. Plants do not appreciate having their roots disturbed, and any damage to them will result in some check to growth. Some types of houseplants also prefer to be in small pots.

Re-potting should never simply be an annual routine. It is a job to be thought about annually, but should not actually be done unless a plant needs it. Young plants require potting on much more frequently than older ones. Once a large specimen is in a big pot, it may be better to keep it growing by re-potting into another pot of the same size, by top-dressing (see below right), or simply by additional feeding.

When re-potting is necessary

The sight of roots growing through the base of the pot is not in itself a sign that re-potting is immediately necessary. If you have been watering the plants through a capillary mat, or have placed the pot in a cache-pot, some roots will inevitably have grown through the base to seek the water.

If you are in doubt, knock the plant out of its pot. To remove the root-ball easily, invert the pot and knock the rim on a hard surface while supporting the plant and compost (potting soil) with your hand. It is normal for a few roots to run around the inside of the pot, but if there is also a solid mass of roots it is time to pot on. There are several ways to re-pot a plant, but the 2 methods described here are among the best


1 Prepare the new pot as in step 1 of the Traditional Method if you are using a clay pot. However, if you are using a plastic pot and you intend to use a capillary watering mat, do not cover the drainage hole at all.


A mass of thick roots growing through the bottom of the pot (top) is an indication that it is time to move the plant into a larger one. Equally, a mass of roots curled around the edge of the pot (above) is a sign that it is time for a larger container.

The vast majority of plants on sale are grown in plastic pots, which are inexpensive, light and remain largely free of algae. Plastic pots do become brittle with age, however, and even a slight knock can break them, whereas a clay pot will not break unless you actually drop it on a hard surface.


1. Once plants are in large pots, perhaps 25-30 cm (10-12 in) in diameter, continual potting on into a larger pot may not be practical. Try removing the top few centimetres (inches) of compost (potting soil), loosening it first with a small hand fork. Replace this with fresh potting compost of the same type. This, plus regular feeding, will enable most plants to be grown in the same pot for many years.

2. Put in a little dampened compost (potting soil). Insert the existing pot (or an empty one of the same size), ensuring that the soil level will be 12 mm/1/2 in below the top of the new pot when filled.

3. Pack more compost firmly between the inner and outer pots, pressing it down gently with your fingers. This will create a mould when you remove the inner pot.

4. Remove the inner pot, then take the plant from its original container and place it in the hole formed in the centre of the new compost. Gently firm the compost around the root-ball, and water thoroughly.


1. Prepare a pot that is either 1 or 2. sizes larger than the original and, if the pot is a clay one, cover the drainage hole with pieces of broken pot or a few pieces of chipped hark.

2. Water the Plant to he re-potted, and leave it for a few minutes. Remove the root-ball from the old pot, either by pulling gently on the plant, or by inverting the pot and tapping the rim on a hard surface.

3. Place a little compost (potting soil) in the base of the new pot, then position the root-ball so that it is at the correct height. If it sits too low or too high, adjust the amount of compost in the base.

4. Trickle more compost around the sides, turning the pot as you work. It is a good idea to use the same kind of compost -peat- (peat-moss) or loam-based — as used in the original pot.

5. Gently firm the compost with your fingers. Make sure that there is a gap of about 12 mm-2.5 cm (1/2-1 in) between the top of the compost and the rim of the pot, to allow for watering. Water thoroughly.


Potting up is what happens the first time a seedling or cutting is given its own individual pot.

Potting on is the action of re-planting the root-hall in a larger pot.

Re-potting is sometimes taken to mean replacing the plant in a pot of the same size, but with the bulk of the compost replaced, if the plant cannot he moved into a larger pot.