One of our major early-summer projects is putting together the many flowering pots that beautify the terrace and courtyard at Coveside. The gardening books are full of examples of different flower combinations. But they don’t tell a lot about the basics of putting together pots. Over the years, we’ve discovered what works for us, and thought we might share a couple of hints that apply to all pots. They concern potting medium, fertilizer, and mulch. First, the planting medium: After lugging around sacks and sacks of potting soil, of uneven quality, we asked our local nurseries what they use in their pots; the answer was always the same: ProMix. The stuff comes in compressed bails and is available at most garden supply stores. It must be mixed with water before using, but one bail goes a long way; and one or two bails are much easier to handle than countless bags of heavy, premoistened dirt. Most importantly, it has proved to be a great foundation for all our pots. Second: the fertilizer. Because pots are so heavily planted, they need a good dose of fertilizer for the individual plants to prosper. After burning some pots with too much conventional fertilizer, and starving others, we again got the advice of the local nurseries — Osmocote slow release fertilizer. A couple of tablespoons of the little pellets mixed at planting time in a good sized pot lasts a couple of months, and it’s almost impossible to burn your plants. A good sized bag is expensive, but a little goes a long way.
Finally, we have started using dark mulch as a top dressing on all our pots. This accomplishes two things — first, in the early season, before the plants fill the pots, it’s a lot better looking than the potting soil (with the white pellets that rise to the surface); second, it helps retain moisture, so you don’t have to water the pots so often.
Here are some of this year’s pots:
The dark leafed plant in the back is a tropical of the taro family; its full name is colocasia antiquorum ”illustris.” The front plant with the spotted leaves is called, appropriately, “spotted leopard plant” or Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculata.’ The red accents are begonias. This pot wants shade or partial shade; so far, the morning sun in Maine hasn’t caused problems; we’ll see as the summer advances. We understand that the whole pot can be brought inside for the winter and we may try it.