What sort of containers should I use in my garden?

Geoff Stonebanks offers his hard earned experience on choosing pots and containers for his garden

Succulents look amazing in this vertical wall planter Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Continuing the theme of container gardening from my January blog, many visitors often ask me which type of pots work best for me, and why? To be honest, I’ll use anything that I think will work. Those who are familiar with my plot will know that I have a vast, eclectic mix of objects and planters.

Cluster similar materials together for an en masse effect
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

I had a small garden in North London, before moving to Sussex in 2004. At the time, I had paid a landscaper to create and plant it for me. Keen not to lose most of the plants on departure, I commandeered anything and everything to dig up and plant the shrubs into in order to bring them with me to the south coast. I had a separate removal truck just to bring them all. In other words, I think I have tried most types over my many years of gardening here in Seaford.

Top of the pots

I have to say, my personal favourites are proper terracotta. like the ones used in my box courtyard at the top of the garden. Their simplicity compliments the elegance of the topiary. I’ve never really been one for using plastic pots, despite some of their advantages, they just don’t fit the bill for me. That said, the first winter of living here and not really having the measure of the weather and the strong winds, many terracotta pots did smash, after gales blew the containerised shrubs over!

Terracotta pots create a more formal, traditional effect
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

My hostas always do well in their terracotta pots, sat on an upturned saucer set in a larger one, creating an island upon which to sit, thereby helping to protect them from the slugs and snails. I find that terracotta comes in such a vast range of sizes and shapes to suit most plants and gardens. Large rectangular troughs look great with ferns in and decorative urns do well with a specimen heuchera.

Anything goes

I’ve even got a beautiful wooden boat window box too, which is perfect for a seaside garden. Likewise, I love rusty metal and I have a couple of classic metal urns that are very elegant, especially with annuals or ivy tumbling out of them. The odd vintage watering can, or modern-day equivalent, also looks great when planted up, but as with any container for growing plants do remember to drill some drainage holes in the base.

Anything goes when it comes to garden containers
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

By the pond I have a large circular planter that probably started life as something else but now doubles up well as a gorgeous container planted with annuals in the summer. Alongside a vintage watering can I found some lovely grey, French metal vases, that have had lavender planted in them for the last few years and they really stand out against the grey, especially when paired with the vintage French shutters on the patio.

Focal points

I have a large collection of succulents and a few years ago a friend made me a personalised small wooden table stand in which to display some of the smaller specimens, a great idea to create a feature in your garden, patio or on a balcony.

You can make a focal point out of pots by giving them a stage to shine
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

One of my favourite small containers for succulents, is a lime green ceramic planter, designed to either sit on a table or hang on a wall. I bought two of them at Chelsea a few years ago and it is amazing how many visitors remark on them. I think it has taken me the last 3 years to actually master how to plant them properly.

Succulents look amazing in this vertical wall planter
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Finally why not create your own planters. I’ve made an interesting feature of three different sized wire globes, one hung under the other then lined with moss and planted up. They looked wonderful suspended beneath a plum tree last year. So, there you have it, my personal choices but go for whatever you feel looks good in your garden.

Geoff Stonebanks

About Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden - Driftwood - he has raised over £131,000 for various charities in 9 years, £80,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners' World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.
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