Top designers get creative with containers

by Rhiannon James

©Sophie Mutevelian

Leading designers and gardeners might be used to thinking big, but this month, they’ve been squeezing their creativity into the smallest possible plot – a single pot.

The Garden Museum in London has challenged 23 designers, gardeners and writers such as Cleve West, Andy Sturgeon, Tom Stuart-Smith and Beatrice Krehl to plant up identical black containers with a design of their choice.

With the finished results including everything from a petite potager to a mini meadow, there’s something to inspire everyone’s container creations, whatever their style.

The pots themselves will be auctioned off this evening to raise money for the museum’s internship programme, which offers a young horticulturalist the chance to experience the running of a public garden, but the whole collection of ‘Lots in Pots’ will be on display at the Garden Museum until Sunday 3rd July.

Cleve West

Copyright: Sophie Mutevelian

Cleve West has chosen some highlights from his Best in Show-winning garden at Chelsea this year for his pot. He says, “Somewhat predictably, I’ve chosen to plant some of the parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) that were used in the Daily Telegraph Garden at Chelsea this year.  They were dug up from my allotment last Christmas.  As self-seeding plants were a feature of the garden, I’ve also included Delphinium requienii which were only just in bud at Chelsea.”










Andy Sturgeon

Copyright: Sophie Mutevelian

Talking about his pot, garden designer Andy Sturgeon says, “The theme is ‘Experiments in Colour’. If Christopher Lloyd could do it, why can’t I? Pink, orange and blue isn’t an obvious combination but the plants are all beautifully structural.” The plants in question are Veronicastrum ‘Temptation’, Achillea ‘Terracotta’ and Eryngiums.












Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

Copyright: Sophie Mutevelian

This unusual design by landscape architect and historian Todd Longstaffe-Gowan features ‘Mind Your Own Business’ (Soleirolia soleirolii; syn. Helxine soleirolii), African Spear (Sansevieria cylindrica), and a bonsai tree – a Japanese Larch ( Larix kaempferi).












Ann-Marie Powell

Copyright: Sophie Mutevelian

Garden designer Ann-Marie Powell has picked a naturalistic style for her pot including plants such as Achillea ‘Inca Gold’, Cenolophium denudatum, Nepeta govaniana, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ and Teucrium hircanicum.












Tom Stuart Smith

Copyright: Sophie Mutevelian

Tom Stuart-Smith has gone for elegant simplicity, planting a single lemon tree in his pot.














Lady Egremont, Petworth House

Copyright: Sophie Mutevelian

The centrepiece of this design is an unusual plant from Turkey called Michauxia tchihatcheffii, which is grown at Petworth to decorate the Marble Hall. Lady Egremont says, “The complementary plants of Gypsophila ‘Festival White’, Tulbaghia violaceaSilver Lace’ and Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’, which are light and airy, have been chosen to act as a foil to the main, very distinctive, plant.”











Beatrice Krehl

Beatrice Krehl is Head Gardener at Waltham Place in Berkshire. She says, “My inspiration for the planting is the flower meadows from my childhood in Switzerland. I have selected plants that show the diversity of Waltham Place, outside the ornamental gardens, in the cornfields and hay meadows.” The plants used include: Hordeum jubatum, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’, Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Red Thunder’ and Scabiosa columbaria subsp. ochroleuca.






Dan Pearson

Garden designer, Dan Pearson, has used Dahlia x cosmos ‘Mexican Black’, Ipomoea ‘Sweet Caroline’ and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ to create this subtle scheme.











Orchard Dene Nurseries

This cool, green scheme has been created by Chris and Toby Marchant from Orchard Dene Nurseries. They say, “We were inspired by the cool mountain forests around the Japanese Alps and have tried to create a micro landscape in a pot to serve as a calm, green retreat in a hectic world”. The plants used are: Ilex crenata ‘Dark Green’, Blechnum spicant, Melica altissima ‘Alba’, Scleranthus uniflorus, Persicaria filiforme, Hosta ‘Green Edger’, Polystichum setiferum ‘Dahlem’ and Polygonatum falcatum ‘Variegatum’.






Stephen Lacey

Copyright: Sophie Mutevelian

Garden designer, writer and broadcaster, Stephen Lacey, has created a pot for light shade, using unusual Asian woodland plants and scented bulbs from Crûg Farm Nursery and his own garden on the North Wales border.

The multi-stemmed shrub is Schefflera kornasii, planted with Cardiocrinum giganteum var. yunnanense, Sphenomeris chinensis, Beesia calthifolia, Ophiopogon japonicus, Roscoea auriculata, Meehania urticifolia and Lilium nepalense.









Stephen Crisp

Stephen Crisp, who is Head Gardener at Winfield House (the US Ambassador’s Residence), has created a pot inspired by the White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. The plants used are: Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, Aster divaricatus, Cosmos ‘Sonata White’, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’, Hydrangea quercifolia, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, Calocephalus ‘Silver Sand’, Convolvulus cneorum, Gaura ‘Karalee White’ and Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’.









Debs Goodenough

This pot is from The Prince of Wales’ garden at Highgrove. Head Gardener, Debs Goodenough says” The planting style and choice of plants reflect those used in the summer pot and container displays around the garden.” The plants used are: Dahlia ‘Trelissick Purple’, Ipomoea ‘Grandpa Otts’ (Purple/ Blue and Pink bi-colour), Verbena ‘Claret’, Osteospermum ‘Whirlygig’ and Argyranthemum ‘Mediterranean Pink’.










Arabella Lennox-Boyd

Garden designer, Arabella Lennox-Boyd has created a potager in a pot for the Garden Museum. She says, “A yellow chilli pepper, ‘Golden Cayenne’, was the springboard for the other yellow flowers, (annual Rudbeckia sp. and Lantana ‘Yellow Improved’ Lucky Series) and cream-variegated land cress (Barbarea vulgaris ‘Variegata’). I wanted to spice up the combinations with a flash of tangerine found in Lantana ‘Red Flame’ Lucky Series, and cool the combination with a cascading violet blue Verbena, trailing silver Helichrysum petiolare and the glaucous purple rosettes of cabage Brassica oleracea ‘Red Drumhead’. Giving a hint of mystery and height to the whole scheme is the luxuriously dark curly kale ‘Redbor F1’.”



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