Containing With Containers

By Alia Babapulle

Whenever possible, choose a container whose material, colour, and shape blend with the décor and show-off the individual plant or group at its best. The choice is really huge, both in style and material used, allowing a range of rustic to ultra-modern.
Unlikely household objects, such as old watering cans, birdcages, kettles, urns, and even old cooking utensils can, with ingenuity, be used as striking plant holders. Old painted tyres which have been hung along a wall have also been used, and they look very nice indeed. Make sure that there is adequate drainage from the bottom.

Actually, it is a good idea to use your imagination and recycle old items from around the home to house your plants, and it also helps the environment. I took an old colander, lined it with moss, put it onto a wide enough terracotta base for excess water to drain out, and planted it with Lobelia – only that. It looks pretty with the shiny container and all the cascading bright blue, dainty Lobelia.

An old wheelbarrow painted in a bright colour can be used perfectly for a dramatic mixture of flowering plants. If you do that, plant some ficus behind it as a perfect foil and also to give height. Always be careful with drainage with whichever type of container you are using.

Hanging baskets on a terrace are so pretty but they can also be used for growing indoor plants. If you do use them for that purpose, make sure the flooring will take water splashes. Arching fern fronds and cascading foliage plants lend themselves perfectly to a hanging basket.
Vary the planting during the year so as to take advantage of seasonal displays. You can make temporary arrangements by planting up a basket with different pot plants but they will need replanting every year. Permanently planted baskets are easier to manage, especially if devoted to one particular type of plant. Remember that a hanging basket is heavy so make sure the fixed point is strong enough to take the weight when it is fully watered; you don’t want it crashing down suddenly!

If you have an old terrarium or have just bought a new one, they are perfect for having a beautiful arrangement of plants, if space is at a premium. Any slow-growing ornamental plant which needs a humid atmosphere thrives in a terrarium. Do not use flowering plants because they will rot. You can build one into a window to house a lush amount of larger plants or put one onto a sturdy support in a corner of a terrace. They look very dramatic, especially if you can incorporate some mood lighting for the evening.

Talking about lighting, we all know how a garden, terrace, or home looks so much better with good lighting. With plants, remember not to put the lights too close – otherwise over time the plant will burn. I have seen this happen many times, unfortunately, and when I have told the owner to move them the answer inevitably has been: “I wanted to make more drama.”
You can have drama in a garden of course – just don’t burn the plants! If you have a modern home, using lighting in a more rigid pattern will keep the modern look going. If your home is not ultra-modern, avoiding placing the lights in straight lines will be better for the look. Remember, I am always here to help you with any questions you may have, and I do interior and exterior designs incorporating everything I have been writing about over the years.
So, the sky’s the limit with containers. Make use of all you might have first, instead of getting new ones. You’ll be surprised at what a bit of ingenuity can do. Ask your garden centre for advice for the plants; they will help you with pleasure. Have fun!


Alia Babapulle – Interior and Exterior Designer
Tel. (+34) 616 670 975 ·


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