Landscaping with Patio Pots

Hints to successful landscaping with patio pots. Great new designs in Patio Pots! Which are the best plants for Patio Pots?

Patio pots are increasingly becoming an important part of landscape design and construction. Houses are becoming bigger, blocks are becoming smaller, resulting in smaller garden and outdoor living spaces. Many clients are asking their landscapers to maximise the outdoor living areas, at the expense of gardens. These people still want plants, so they are turning to patio pots, and larger planter boxes, which are often intertwined in the landscape design. When installing, or designing such patio, courtyard, or terrace landscapes, it is important to choose the right plants, as well as the right pot designs, both aesthetically and functionally. Choosing the right low maintenance plants is only part of sensible landscaping with patio pots; choosing the right potting mix, or other additives is the just as important, as too is choosing the right pot.

So which type of ornamental Patio Pots is best? Firstly, glazed pots are much easier to keep clean compared to Terra Cotta pots. The smoother, less porous outside of a glazed pot, makes them much easier to clean. Terra Cotta pots with their more porous nature, also allow mould to more easily form on them. However, Terra Cotta can look great in many designs, so now you can now buy some Terra Cotta pots that are sealed, which reduce some of the problems with Terra Cotta. Northcote Pottery (Head Office 02 4577 7740 www.northcotepots.com.au ), are now one of the few companies, selling sealed Terra Cotta pots Australia wide. Unsealed Terra Cotta pots due to their porous nature also tend to dry out quicker than Glazed pots. When deciding on pots, remember your client will need to regularly water them. To make these watering frequencies less often, choose pots that are wider. Really narrow pots, or very small in size pots require more frequent watering.

According to Simon Hupfeld, the General Manager of Northcote Pottery, there is a trend to a more modern style of pot. This year, glazed pots with shades of red, or wine colours, and blacks are all the rage. I would suggest getting a copy of their comprehensive, and well designed catalogue. It could be an invaluable tool when sitting down with clients, trying to decide what style of pots to use, or even to help you choose.

What goes into the pot is even more important than the pot itself. The choice of both potting mix and plants will often decide wether your clients will have success or failure with their Patio Pot design. The best type of potting mixes for Patio Pots are the ones made from composted pine barks and coir. These tend to last much longer, and will continue to grow plants healthily, well after the faster to break down potting mixes made from recycled organics. Recycled organics make great soil conditioners, but for Patio Pots they compost quicker, will often degrade within one year, and suffer far more from shrinkage.

Just as important as the mix, are the additives used in it. For example, both Pot Power and Shrub and Tub available from Debco, have the following important ingredients; Slow release fertiliser, a wetting agent, and water crystals. Slow release fertilisers are essential for good long term growth. As part of your landscape maintenance plan that you give to your clients, suggest that they ad some slow release fertiliser to their pots, preferably twice per year, and definitely at least once per year. If you’re newly installed plants are to live and prosper, then a six monthly, or at least yearly application of a wetting agent is essential. As the potting mix ages, it will usually become hydrophobic. No matter how much water you put into the pot, the old mix will simple not correctly wet up. The water will simply find the path of least resistance, usually down the side of the pot. It makes little difference if you water a hydrophobic potting mix for 2 minutes or 20 minutes, it simply will fail to adequately re-wet. Wetting agents will rectify this problem. I tend to use Saturaid, as it is in solid form and is easy to use.

Here are a few hints for clients who must take holidays, and leave their beloved patio Pot landscape behind for a few weeks. One possibility is to put a big saucer under each pot. This will hold water at the bottom of the pot. This is also useful for reducing watering frequency in general. There are now some commercial products available that claim they can water your plants while away, like the milk cartons filled with jell.
Other options include, putting a big bucket under the pots, or tie a tough strong garbage bag around the bottom half of the pot. Fill the pot, and hence the bucket or bag with water before leaving, and the plants will still have some water available for a longer period. Larger soft drink bottles can also be used. Fill it with water, put the lid on, and punch a small whole in the top. If you have judged it right, the water will drip out for up to a week.

Off coarse all these maintenance tips become easier, if you plant your Patio Pots with tough plants in the first place. When choosing plants, try to go for ones that will; survive longer if the pot dries out, need less trimming, remain evergreen, and of coarse one that is stylish and matches the pot you have chosen. Succulents are stylish plants that are very easy to maintain, and look great in Patio Pots. They will often look great with only a sniff of water.

If you need flowers, try using Flower Carpet from Tesselaar. These are tough and easy to grow, and the Flower Carpet Range requires minimal care, and no fancy pruning. Simply prune the pots when the flower carpet out grows the pot. They come in a range of flower colours, so finding one to match a pot colour should be easy. Another way to get flower colour, is to plant one central plant, and place annual flowers around it. This gives the client some gardening to do, and allows the landscape to have flowers for most of the year. As one lot of annuals fad, replant with another lot. One Ideal plant to do this with is Tanika, a tough stylish Lomandra. Tanika, is one of the toughest easy care Patio plants. It even tells you when it needs watering. After one to six weeks, depending on the time of the year and pot size, the leaves will start to roll, and dry up, at this point or with in a few days it is time to water. Once watered, the leaves spring back to life often within a few hours, providing a once again beautiful plant. This is a great ability, as it gives people a second chance to keep there plants alive. Tanika will work as a stand alone plant, or in a mixed planting, in most pot types, and even grows well in light indoor areas.

Another great Patio Pot plant are the Tropicanna type plants, which are best suited for those landscapes which need a bold and striking planting. Tropicanna’s foliage is an attention grabber – both as the flamboyant leaves begin to unfold, and again when it begins to flower. Plants quickly establish into clumps of exotic colour, and are great planted among perennials or as a backdrop. Position where they’re backlit by the sun, and consider planting the varieties together for a stunning affect. Tropicannas have been featured in commercial settings such as large display gardens, zoo and park entrances, and landscaped terraces. Planted out into large containers, they demand attention with their tropical colourings. Versatile Tropicanna is suitable for wet boggy conditions in water gardens and ponds as well as in drier, low water situations.

These days there is an array of new style foliage plants becoming available. If you want blue foliage, then Cassa Blue, provides an easy care pot plant that looks great in terracotta, or glassed pots. Both of these plants require less trimming than most other plants, although Cassa Blue may need some older leaves removed once a year. This plant responds well to a good dose of fertiliser. Baby Bliss a Dianella revoluta, is a great plant for smaller pots, or can be a great understory for planter boxes, amongst Cordylines, or Phormiums. The blue foliage of the Baby Bliss contrasts nicely with the red or purple foliage tones of the other two plants. Baby Bliss also makes a great garden border plant. Little Rev, another blue grey foliage plant, looks great on its own in planter boxes, or small to medium sized pots, requiring less water.

If you want a bigger plant for a larger pot try Nyalla, another tough Lomandra longifolia. Nyalla, looks like a blue grey grass tree without the trunk. Nyalla is environmentally better and more successful than digging up grass trees from the bush. Tasred, a Dianella tasmanica, is great as a patio pot, in sun, and shaded areas. Its summer purple berries look magical. Emerald Arch, also a Dianella tasmanica, has wide arching green leaves, and almost looks tropical, yet it does well in warm or cooler areas. It is a particularly good plant for pots, planted in shade.

If you want red foliage in your garden or pots, the choice is a little harder. Both Phormiums and Cordylines are not quite as drought tolerant, but in the southern states, and Perth, these plants perform relatively well, requiring moderate irrigation. There are two new Phormiums available, and they both look great. The dark bronzed Sweet Mist is well suited to smaller and medium pots. Flamin, a reddish Phormium with an orange tinge, does well in medium to larger pots. Flamin seems to do well even in Sydney, if it is planted in Autumn, Winter, or early Spring.

Want big bold flowers? Well there are some new medium sized Kangaroo paws that are much tougher. Gold Velvet, Regal Velvet, and Ruby Velvet are tough, but have great flowers. They will still need older leaves removed, and spent flowers cut back, but they do perform much better than most other Kangaroo Paws. They get far less black spot, which is great news for Kangaroo paw enthusiasts. For those who want compact flowering tough shrubs, try Callistemon Little John, or the eye-catching Banksia ericifolia Bulli Baby. The Wollemi Pine can be a great conversational plant. I have two in pots on my Patio, and friends always seem to notice. So far, it has been an easy plant to look after.

These are just a small sample of some of my favourite plants that do well in Patio Pots. There are off coarse many others, but try to remember when choosing plants for pots, think low maintenance, and survivability. You can make your clients task even easier buy using the right potting mix, and providing them with a good maintenance schedule. Patio landscaping with pots has never been so much fun. The amazing array of designer pots available today make this type of landscaping a shear pleasure.

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