Choosing Garden Containers

I have finally made it into the blog-o-sphere, after months of procrastination … don’t have time to fiddle about creating a template … don’t know what to post … and other lame excuses made by a somewhat technophobic busy person … but I am here now and I thought I would start by sharing some of the advice I give to my clients about choosing garden containers…


Rule Number 1: Bigger is better
Rule Number 2: Repetion creates real impact

All too often I come across gaggles of mismatched, small pots, collecting dead leaves and who knows what else, clustered on steps or on the patio, with similarly mismatched contents.

These lovely big glazed pots containing Stipa gigantea are in my sister-in-law’s garden in Seattle.


Rule Number 3: You can grow just about anything in containers, and in any combination.

These big galvanised aluminium troughs on my patio contained a mixture of edibles and ornamentals last summer, following on from Iris reticulata in February, Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ in March and massed tulips in April/May.

Rule Number 4: Space fillers save on compost – filling up the bottom third or half of the container with a space filler such as stones, crumpled up newspaper or recyled packaging material reduces the amount of compost you need to use (good for the planet and good for your wallet.)

unusual containers

Rule Number 5: Containers don’t have to be expensive – a little imagination goes a long way.

I saw these metal dustbins in a garden in Edinburgh – they are just the job for small trees or large shubs, in this case Camellia – and the wee bit of rope makes all the difference!

Here are a few of the quirky containers that I have come across in my travels – anyone found any other good ones?

unusual containers

I think this would count as a totally blocked toilet!

(seen at RHS Harlow Carr a few years ago)


Old garden boots never die….all sorts of smaller containers can make great homes for succulents and alpines.

(also at RHS Harlow Carr, in the alpine garden)

unusual containers

One of my favourites – a recycled drinks cooler outside a 1950’s style diner on the west coast of the USA, snapped during a road trip in the summer of 2008. Could it be that it is the memories that this brings back rather than the thing itself that makes it a favourite …?

I could go on, with rules about mulching to keep the moisture in, standing pots off the ground to improve their drainage, regular feeding and watering … but if I start on horticultural tips we will be here for ever!

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Tracy McQueShades of Green Garden Design Recent comment authors
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Tracy McQue

Great first post, really useful. Welcome to the world of blogging…!

Shades of Green Garden Design

Thanks, Tracy – you may recognise some of the photos too!!