Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blast from the Past Tuesday : Five Things I Hate about Container Gardening Books

This week's Blast from the Past post comes from February 2008.

I have two types of gardening books on my bookshelves : the first are about gardening, the second are about container gardening.

The container gardening books have a different emphasis from the others. They're not so much about how to grow things, as what plants to combine to produce the most attractive containers. And at times they drive me mad. Here's why ...

1. The assumption that container gardening means patio gardening, or at least that you have a large terrace. If you can use enormous containers, raised beds and so on, its a whole different ball game from balcony gardening, and much of what you need to know is no different from gardening with a garden. The book often looks great, but relegates small container gardening to hardly more than a chapter. Container gardening should cover both possibilities - so give us balcony gardeners at least 50% of the space please.

2. The perfect pictures. Five different types of plant in the same container, all in flower and at their best, and all exactly complementary heights and lengths at exactly the same time. Yeah, yeah. Buy them from the garden centre, give them a week to settle and they'll be like that - for another week. But then one will shoot up, another will get attacked by pests, and a third will stop flowering. And the container will spend the rest of the summer looking tatty.

3. The one-sided pictures. The most difficult thing about balcony gardening is that all the light comes from one direction. So the plants lean towards it, away from the house, and the container ends up lop-sided with the plants trailing over the balcony railings away from you. All you get to see from your living room are the backs of flowers and leaves leaning away. And tall plants end up looking like the leaning tower of Pisa. Smaller containers can be turned regularly, but that doesn't help with the large fixed ones. Look at the one in the photo for example - super. But what's it like from the other side?

4. The perfect colour schemes, achieved only by going out to buy an exact variety of a plant. Phyllitis scolopendrium "Cristatum" - whaaat ? Here I'd be lucky if I could get the plant, let alone a specific variety. I have sometimes thought of going to our local garden centre with a list and saying "I'm looking for these." I suspect the reply would be the Italian equivalent of "What about some nice pelargoniums, luv?"

OK, OK - I'm just envious because my containers never look as good as the ones in the books. But that doesn't stop me yanking them out every spring, poring over the pictures and trying again. And buying more. Maybe this year ...

Don't let your old posts get lost! If you'd like to join in with Blast from the Past Tuesday (or Saturday or Sunday, whenever you like), just "revive" one of your favourite old posts from at least a year ago, with a brief explanation of when it's from and that you're "reviving" it for BFTP Tuesday, and leave a comment below with a link to your blog so that people can find it.


easygardener said...

I've never had plants in a container or hanging basket grow as expected. Something is always out of balance. As for photos in books - it would be good to see a series of pictures covering a few months. We'd soon see perfection fall by the wayside!

Anonymous said...

So true, isn't it? I think they take the pictures right after they plant them or soon after making you believe you'll have these summer long luscious plants! Mine start to fry in August no matter how much I water them. And I really don't have the resources to buy HUGE pots to plant them in.

Val said...

Oh I agree with all this. Books on container growing leave one so disappointed with the actual result! Great post! Well worth resurrecting! Val

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

That's very true, Sue. Just like make-up advertisement, everything looks pretty with models..

But there is no harm in trying, to get the best out of things..

Happy Gardening.

Sandy W said...

I can agree no more Sue. To save both money and space on my bookshelves, I never buy any container gardening book, but keep borrowing them from the library for inspirations :D

Wendy said...

I totally agree with point #2. To jam pack many plants, all flowering at the same time, and all in a tiny pot is totally unrealistic and then we just feel bummed out when it doesn't work out! At this point, I'm trying to get a little independent and putting my own containers together - usually following the formula of a tall, a flowering filler thing, and a draping plant. I used asparagus fern as the tall, and it didn't work out too well. A tall plant that's really tall would have worked better. I may post a pic at some point. Good blast from the past!

Jan said...

It's the same as anything they show in books, cookery, decorating, hairstyles... nothing ever looks the same in reality!

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