Shrubs in Tubs

Shrubs in Tubs
Pieris japonica ‘Katsura’
Stunning mahogany-red new leaves. Sprays of crimson stained flowers in early spring. Plant in lime-free compost. 3ft x 2ft (90cm x 60cm)
By planting up pots and containers with evergreen shrubs, you’ll create longer lasting displays that provide interest all year round.
Many shrubs make wonderful long-term subjects for pots and, unlike seasonal bedding plants they can provide color and interest throughout the year. Although the initial outlay may be more than your usual seasonal selection, in the long term they are better value and far more rewarding. I grow a wide variety of shrubs in pots and use them to bring the garden onto the terrace, driveway and any other paved areas where planting in the ground is not feasible.
They make great focal points, and the wonderful thing about growing in pots is that you can change the planting picture so easily by moving them around, or by grouping them with a pot of bulbs, violas or perhaps a geranium or verbena for summer color.

Shrubs in Tubs
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Variegatum’
Dense and bushy with waved, blue-green leaves edged with cream. Good in sun or shade. 4ft x 2ft (1.2m x 60cm)
Growing in pots also enables you to grow those shrubs that you long for, but will not succeed on your soil. For example camellias make wonderful shrubs for pots; you can grow them in this way if you have alkaline soil and cannot grow them in the open ground. I particularly like Camellia ‘Jury’s Yellow’ with its pale outer petals and gorgeous lemon-yellow central ruff.

Colorful foliage

Shrubs in Tubs
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Admiration’
Orange-red leaves in early spring, turning red, edged gold in summer, flame in late autumn. Bright red berries in winter. Deciduous. 18in x 18in (45cm x 45cm)
As with any planting solution I believe that foliage interest is more important than flowers; it is more enduring and lasts through the seasons. Flower color is easy to add on a temporary basis. If you get the combination of pot and foliage right, the effect can have so much more impact than a plant in an unsuitable container. Fortunately terracotta pots are very forgiving and work well with a wide variety of colors.
However they are perhaps at their best with the warm tones of red leaves and stems. I often use Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter fire’ or Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ in a terracotta pot on the terrace in winter. The latter, known as the coral-bark maple is stunning when the sun catches its red twigs with the warm tones of the clay.

Shrubs in Tubs
Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’
Pink buds open to delicate white flowers in early spring. Leaves turn scarlet in autumn. Gives the effect of a bonsai grown in a pot. Deciduous. 3ft x 2ft (90cm x 60cm)
Glazed ceramic pots are widely available and are a great way of adding color to your garden. They offer wonderful opportunities to get creative with your planting. Imagine the shimmering silver leaves and white trumpet flowers of Convolvulus cneorum with a blue or black glazed pot, for example.

Shrubs in Tubs
Fatsia japonica
Large, dark green leaves and striking white flowerheads in winter. Great for a tropical effect in shade. ‘Variegata’ has leaves tipped with creamy white. 4ft x 3ft (1.2m x 90cm)
6.    Euonymus japonicas ‘Green Rocket
Long-term success
When it comes to planting up your container, I recommend that you choose a pot that the shrub is going to be happy in for a few years. If you use the right compost and feed and water regularly, a shrub can be happy in the same pot for five to ten years, or even longer.
The secret of success is to choose nice, big, good quality pots at the outset. I promise you, they always look a lot bigger at the garden center than they will when you get them home.

Shrubs in Tubs
Euonymus japonicas ‘Green Rocket’
Upright stems packed with rounded dark green shining leaves. Striking and architectural. Ideal for small, modern shady gardens. 3ft x 1ft (90cm x 30cm)
The sizes of plants quoted here are approximate in five years. Eventual size can be larger but can be restricted by pruning or trimming; growing in containers normally restricts the size anyway. All are evergreen unless stated otherwise. 
Shrubs in Tubs
Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’
Compact Japanese maple with narrow fingered red leaves on dark purple stems. Dense, leafy and compact and more weather resistant than other acers. Deciduous. 4ft x 3ft (1.2m x 90cm)
Shrubs in Tubs
Buxus sempervirens ‘Elegantissima’
Variegated box with creamedged small, deep green leaves. Excellent in shade. 2ft x 2ft (60cm x 60cm)

Shrubs in Tubs
Leucothoe Scarletta ‘Zeblid’
Emerging leaves are dark purple, turning green as they mature, then finally turn bronze and wine-red in winter. Plant in lime-free compost. 18ins x 18ins (45cm x 45cm)

Shrubs in Tubs
Skimmia x confuse ‘Kew Green’
Green flower buds in winter open to large clusters of lily-of-thevalley scented flowers in spring. 2ft 6ins x 2ft 6ins (75cm x 75cm)

It’s a shore thing

shore thing
The Sea Garden is a tiny border against the east facing wall of an extension tacked on to our house. There are distant views of the sea and soon after moving in we made it pretty by adding seaside plants, shingle mulches and shells. Two things went wrong. Plants like sea statice, seakale and, to an extent, sea holly need good drainage and on clay soil, during wet winters, they eventually rotted away. Then we had to dig a channel quickly to repair some leaking pipes and the border more or less disappeared.
While working at a gardening show last year I had a mad moment and bought an ornamental octopus made of wire and beads. Everyone else in the family says it’s ghastly, but I like it and will use it to provide a little much-needed inspiration for the resurrection of my Sea Garden.
Getting the all-clear
This is a good time of the year to get the clearing done, so we took down the dead stem from what had been a 20ft (6m) high cordyline, removed old foliage from a montbretia (the robust and fiery Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’) and dealt with the big weeds. I haven’t seen any signs of chalara (ash dieback disease) near the garden and ash seedlings germinate here wherever they can. We weed them out while still small but sometimes miss the awkward ones whose roots find a safe anchor beneath some concrete and are impossible to grub out.
From autumn to winter is ideal for cutting down unwanted saplings and applying a glyphosate-based stump killer to the freshly cut surfaces. (You need to get on with this quickly before sap starts to rise.) The instructions usually tell you to make a cross in the surface, apply the product and then cover with polythene to keep the rain off.
Our enormous and venerable Swiss cheese plant thoroughly enjoyed the house plant programme of the Great British Plant Revival shown on Chanel Four just before Christmas. He(strictly it) loved the orchids and streptocarpus but wondered why no plants were shown growing inside their homes – they were all in greenhouses, polytunnels or even outdoors.
He would like to add how much he likes living in our sitting room listening to conversations, watching TV and hanging out with his pals Medinilla and Adiantum. He’s doing his best to join in with family life and has even sent out aerial roots to act as tiebacks for the curtains.
shore thing
Grub out unwanted ash saplings or treat freshly cut surfaces with a glyphosate-based stump killer
shore thing

Ivy can be highly invasive and requires constant pulling back or weeding out to keep it in check

shore thing
Brambles are removed by
digging their roots out using a
spade with a V-shaped blade