Under planting in pots

by Ciaran Burke


The space beneath trees and shrubs trained as standards offers the opportunity for gardeners to add an extra layer of colour and interest. In our collection of pots that form our garden, I look upon these spaces with great interest, an opportunity not just to squeeze in more plants, but to select plants that will complement the primary ten want of the container.

Recently I brought home from my work a Fuchsia magellanica that I had trained into a standard. After planting it in a terracotta pot and carefully placing it, the bare compost that was the plants new home demanded my attention and I had to find a few more plants to fill around the bare base of the newly planted shrub. While at Johnstown Garden Centre in Naas I picked up the very attractive Dianthus ‘Fire Star’; nicely fragrant and the deep red flowers were a perfect compliment to the red sepals of the fuchsia flowers. A small potful of  Sedum oreganum joined it, the reddish tinge of its foliage the reason for its selection and then an unnamed Pelargognium, a trailing variety with dark red flowers. Now the picture was complete.


In another a pot a combination from a couple of years ago continues to entertain;nth rough the dense foliage of a Liquidambar orientale a cheerful Potentilla scrambles without a care while the ever curious and intrepid stems of Parahebe perfoliata wander to explore every empty centimeter of the compost. The beautiful blue flowers dangle freely from the foliage of its larger pot cohabitant.


Even in the smallest of our pots there can be a chance to combine. On a table is plant of Tsuga canadensis ‘Minuta’, it grows in th lid from a terracotta roasting dish into which I drilled drainage holes. Covering the compost is a miniature lawn of Sagina subulata that gets studded with tiny and dainty white flowers in summer.

Under planting also provides benefits such as reducing weed growth and can actually reduce water loss from the compost by evaporation, the plants act as a mulch. Gardeners often need to find a place for just one more plant, have a look at your pots, there maybe plenty of space waiting to be filled.

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