Inspiration for patio gardening

Adam from Brimsmore gardens of the Gardens Group delivered an enthusiastic and comprehensive talk on patio gardening to us last night, here is a summary to help you get the most out of your garden.


The principles for patio gardening can be applied to:

  • a balcony
  • a roof garden
  • an underused corner of a garden

it is about choosing the right plant for the right place


Aims of patio gardening:

  • to get maximum impact (shape, colour)
  • maximum productivity (e.g. cordon fruit trees)
  • good structure and interest (e.g. shapes, colours, evergreens)


Types of containers, for example:

  • we were all fooled by a plastic pot that passed for a glazed earthenware one. Plastic pots do not last as long as clay ones (UV degradation) but have other advantages (e.g. they are lighter to move), remember to drill holes in the base
  • terracotta pots
  • fibre clay pots look like lead planters, are long lasting but can UV degrade
  • oak barrels
  • stone
  • hanging baskets & wall planters
  • bonzai


Growing media
peat & peat based composts will be phased out over in the future. A good peat free compost is Melcourt’s Sylvagrow (coir & composted bark)



  • Seasonal bedding a) autumn /winter (e.g. Primula, Iris reticulata, Narcissus ‘Jet Fire’). b) spring / summer (so much to choose from, tiny plug plants of Petunia are in the garden centre now).
  • Alpines offer a wide range of interest throughout the year, for example mossy saxifrages, variegated Arabis, Sempervivum (houseleek)…
  • Dwarf conifers such as Chamaecyparis ‘Rubicon,or ‘Teddy’. Podocarpus
  • Shrubs, for example Phormium ‘Black Velvet’, Astelia, Lavender, Convolvulus cneorum, Sarcococca ‘Winter Gem’, Nandina ‘Obsessed’, Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’, Hebe
  • Grasses such as Stipa tenuissima
  • Fruit – Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ is a compact, self supporting and productive plant. Blueberries are perfect for containers since they need ericaceous compost. Morello cherry on a gisella rootstock or The bride pato cherry tree.
  • Climbers – choose dwarf clematis and an obelisk to use in the containers. Annual climbers such as Morning Glory produce non stop flowers through the summer
  • Vegetables – runner beans on a bamboo cane frame. Potatoes can grow well in 50litre pots, special potatoe bags or just a simple old compost sack


It is useful to think of pots and containers as a colander, everytime we water so nutrients get washed out of the pot, regular feeding is essential for healthy growth.

  • Vitax Q4 is a slow release fertilizer added to the compost at potting
  • slow release fertilizers often come as a ‘plug’ and can be pushed into established pots for summer food
  • instant feed (pick me ups) are done by watering on liquid feeds. They don’t last and have to be done through the growing season
  • mychorrhizal fungi come in formulation for ericaceous plants now also. They are either added to the soil around the plant roots at planting or can be watered on afterwards. These special fungi help plants to expand their root systems and to absorb more nutrients than usual.



In containers this is key as they tend to dry out rapidly in the summer or windy weather.

  • Water retaining granules can be added to the compost
  • a simple irrigation system set up and connected to a tap with a timer on it (bring timer in in the winter and remove the battery)
notes by Angela Morley