Thursday 30 August 2018

Another eccentricity

After three years it is still in its pot
We received a lovely visiting party last Thursday. A very knowledgeable  bus load of 52 keen Nottingham gardeners. We were rather apprehensive on this occasion as Boundary Cottage had barely seen one inch of rain in three months, yet ironically there was just a dribble when they arrived! Sods law!
We need not have worried, although their observation was forensic they expressed delight at my strange garden.

Two years later - still in its pot
No one has previously noticed (or at least dared mention) that  a few of my plants - in this case pittosporums and ferns are planted in permanently plunged ten litre plus pots. A lady inquired about this strange practice and made the sensible suggestion that it enabled my somewhat tender pittosporums to be lifted for the Winter. True for their first year or two but not when my now splendid six foot high plants have rooted through. For the record I have had wonderful pittosporums before but they were destroyed by the 2010 double Winter and should minus 16 degrees return these new ones will die.

I have form on this planting technique. Six years ago dear Harry found a plastic pot of three foot high privet in the base of his hedge. What idiot would do this? He never discovered it was me!

Ferns do not like our dry weather and dry soil but survive in plunged pots
I have explained before that our fine sandy soil is hydrophobic when dry. It repels water and until successfully wetted water refuses to sink in. I have lost several newly planted plants over the years to soil drying out in raised parts of my garden. The point of planting a pot is its rim. If manually watered it just has to sink in and in my case when wetted retains water extremely well. Better than any compost. 

The pots must have large drainage holes
Please note my large pots do contain my own garden soil and if in organic compost my plants could be doomed. Not only are plants reluctant to root out into a different medium, water movement upwards by capillarity and downward by drainage might be impeded.
This technique is counter productive if you do not intend to regularly water until the plant is well established and has started to root through. It might be sensible to enlarge the numerous large holes which are an essential characteristic of the plastic pots I use. I don't.

I don't need to water now
I don’t need to water my pittosporums now. Their roots are deep in the ground.

I ought to disguise the unsightly rim better
I have some kinds of ferns that previously always died when planted in the soil directly. They do well with this technique but even now need watering in dry weather. Unlike the pittosporums they hardly root through.

The clematis has rooted through strongly and next year will find its own water
Now in their second year I have successfully used this technique to establish three clematis planted in 5 inch bottomless pots in dry awkward  corners. They too have now made roots deep in the ground but the rims still facilitate extra watering in a dry year like this

Temporary plunging

This is a much more common practice than my subject today. It is useful to brighten temporary empty spaces.

Peter gave me the above tender large specimen fuchsia with the comment that it seems my kind of plant. I stood it in an empty gap but it kept blowing over. So I plunged it. It might be too big to keep!

I often temporarily plunge pots of alpines or bulbs in larger ornamental tubs 

These near hardy cacti are plunged for eight months before they return to the unheated greenhouse over Winter
I am a little reluctant to advertise unusual methods which for inexperienced gardeners might lead to problems. I am afraid it does not stop me! With this in mind I intend to review very soon a few of my earlier posts which expose some of my eccentricities. 

In an earlier post I explained how I am able to use my sandy soil as the bulky medium for almost all of my potting composts. Far better than some of the rubbish offered today.You can read about this by putting 'soil compost' in my search box


  1. Have you ever taken the bottom off a plant pot, sunk it in the soil and planted something in that as that way watering is less of an issue?

    1. Not other than as I have described but I can see potential as Jim below illustrates

  2. I have used bottomless pots for my hostas. My usual problem outside is the ground being so wet and the fact that I refuse to use slug pellets. Yet a row of them planted in large pots with the bottom removed have established really well and give a great flowering display in a dark east-facing, airless corner where I sited our oil tank. I should add that these sit on top of the soil rather than being plunged in and the roots grow down in time. The main benefit is the plant doesn't get drowned or eaten early on. I have a large wisteria established in a similar way.

    1. Interesting experience Jim and that your slug problem is reduced.
      Some of my hostas were under water for several weeks this Winter and now the soil is bone dry. They are a very tolerant plant and have been magnificent this year
      Over the years mine have got a bit out of hand and made huge clumps. The pot method would restrain them nicely or I wonder do they burst out?

  3. I plunge large pots of tender plants which then come in for the winter. They root through, and also the pots weight a fair bit, so I use an engine hoist to yank them back out. I put a couple of ropes, arranged as a "plus", under the pot when plunged to use when extracting them

  4. What interesting photos of your exotic garden!
    Quite an eye opener
    It would need your hoist to get my pittosporums out now!

  5. I now garden on heavy last garden was initially heavy clay but after ten years of mulching, it was a delightful medium both for me and the plants. In my new garden, which I am working on, I have planted out plants in temporary locations, but also placed pots in the border to see how they looked. Some have rooted through. I am pondering on your explanation of using garden soil in the pots...and how plants don't really want to move away into different 'environments'. I have noticed that bought in potted plants when planted direct into the borders, don't seem to want to send their roots out much further even after several months. Maybe I should be shaking out the roots a little removing some of the compost, to expose roots which would then be more in contact with 'home' soil?

    1. A lot of accurate observations here Noelie Yes the transition from 'soft potting compost' to real garden soil can be difficult especially to unstructured clay unlike your former mulched garden.
      I am lucky that my own sandy soil enables me for my own pot growing and propagation to always use it rather than regular commercial compost. The real pay off is when I plant such plants in the soil!. I have written several posts about how a gardener can use real soil for his pots and containers - even a good clay soil when large pots are used.
      There has been some research in America indicating the benefits of shaking off loose soil to get good root contact. The blog Garden Professors are very keen on this especially for young trees. Personally I think they go too far and in the thousands of different plants we gardeners grow that 'one size does not fit all'
      I recently wrote this post on planting

    2. I have just clicked through to you and got reminded you are the blogger Stasher, great name for someone who writes about gardening and food - and thanks for your link to my alstroemeria

    3. Have caught up with many of your articles regarding planting. Yes I am Noelle...also write about jams, chutneys in a different blog Mrs Mace Preserves, if you are interested. I had mulched an area of no dig only six weeks ago when the ground felt like baked clay and when I came to plant some of my own divisions a few days ago, the rain and worms had transformed the ground...and this is where builders machinery had run over. Removing some planks that had been placed to hold back some earth revealed a true matrix of worm holes. QED Thanks for all the guidance.

    4. That's a success! I imagine it was a lovely thick mulch of garden compost

  6. Can't find an email address so having to write here that the photos etc taken on Sunday are on my latest blog post.

    1. I am rushing there to see them - with intrepidation. My e mail forwarded to you. Readers can click on your name to go there too - until you post again

    2. Wow. I have just returned from your site. How your lovely pictures flatter my dried up garden!
      It is well worth readers checking you out but they will need a spare half hour!
      Thank you so much Sue

  7. I have just read through your compost posts, all very interesting and informative, as usual. Choosing a good compost to buy is a minfield, I have used the Which guide in the past, this year I have used a well known bark based one, I thought I was being good by avoiding peat based. I always mix my garden soil or compost one part to two of purchased when potting on plants raised for either the garden or NGS plant sales in the belief they would establish more successfully.

    1. This approach often works very well Brian
      The peat issue is a very confusing one - as you will have discerned all my own composts these days are either soil based or soil/home made char mix.
      I do sometimes look over garden centre composts and find they are either peat free or unspecified. They never say 'peat based' even though they sometimes are. For me that would be a selling point to know they were peat based.
      I expect you found my post about peat composts

    2. Yes I did thank you Roger. It confirms that you cannot believe what government and their civil servants publish.

    3. To be fair to government when it comes to something like peat composts they do reflect voter's opinions even though some of us think them misguided. In this case it reflects their wish to look green.
      Unfortunately most civil servants , publicity agents and politicians are not scientists


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