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23 Aug 2021

A tropical plantaholic lockdown

BBC Gardeners' World Live
A tropical plantaholic lockdown

We asked Kate Mason, who is bringing a Beautiful Border to the Show this year, to share 10 steps for successful seasonal pot displays.

Make sure to see the Garden Envy border at the Special Edition!


All of a sudden in 2020, we had this extra time. As a confirmed plantaholic, I can always find something to do in the garden, particularly if there’s chores to be done in the house!  I feel eternally lucky to have outdoor space at home, but even a windowsill display can cause me some serious plant envy. 

Usually during Spring and Summer I am busy working in other people’s gardens, so to just be in my garden was a novelty. We had limited opportunity to engage with nature while at home and I know us gardeners tried our hardest to teach those little people to sow, grow, propagate and compost. Growing his own veg from seed was a sure fire way of getting my son to wander around the garden in search of crops to eat. Watching seedlings germinate, playing with tropical plants, picking our home grown cucumbers, were just some of the ways gardening saved us from the monotony of lockdown life. As the pace of life slowed we were able to hear more birds tweeting and we literally stopped to smell flowers just to be outside that little bit longer. We were able to see from our terraced garden more and more neighbours enjoying their gardens too, It was quite a, sight to behold, everyone at home and everyone gardening. We felt such a sense of comfort, no matter what was happening in the outside world, our little world was still growing. 

watering can

This was our first year with our allotment and the success and failures were all entertaining and educational. The progression of online shopping meant even those rare and unusual specimens are now much easier to source and gardening is now accessible to everyone.

Many of us missed out on travel plans last year, we missed those tropical sunny vibes, and so turned to the next best thing, our homes and gardens to create our own paradise. Like the latest must have toy’s, houseplants were the top of everyone’s list’s.  All of my new beauties were brought from online retailers in a bid to keep my mind occupied, soothed and educated. Sourcing the plant you’ve longed for is a thrill for us plant geeks. 

digging

Now I own more plants than I ever thought possible, (totally blaming this on cabin fever) summer is almost here again,  I can barely use windows and doors as the plants are taking over.

With that in mind, I developed these 10 steps for successional seasonal pot displays. Here’s my “how to create a potted jungle logic” or maybe it’s the recipe to becoming a plant collector?

 1.Chose display location; part of your garden, a couple of pots by your front door, or a balcony etc, Some house plants go outside over the summer, and make the garden look awesome. Plants such as Strelitzia  or some forms of Aolcasia  for example. 

2. Knowing your plants is key to a seasonal display,  ‘Right plant right place’. Find out which of your house plants will enjoy a holiday outside during the warmer months and you’re off to a good start.

3. Keeping more prized specimens in light pots is advantageous as they are easily lifted in and out of larger display pots and easily moved around. I only move my plants outside once hardened off for a week or so. 

4. Starting staging with the killer plants, the biggest, heaviest, and most dramatic like Alocasia,  Strelitzia, Gunnera’s and tree ferns. Place them where the canopy, or leaf form is most visible . I use logs and up-turned pots to give extra height. 

kate mason plants

5. Then add the mid and low section plants like hostas, heuchera,  aeonium’s, ferns and annuals. Make sure to use different textures and colour contrast to help each plant stand out.  Most plants will have a good side so some ‘floofing’ is needed, i.e twisting pots changing the levels. Making sure you can only see the more decorative pots, and hide ugly pots with lower/ smaller foliage plants. I often use small propagations to hide hideous plastic pots.

6. Sit back and look at the display, have a brew, do not rush it. Move things so they are well balanced and have space to grow, help plants knit together by moving things around or create little gaps for views beyond with strategic gaps. 

7. Now you have a beautiful seasonal display, your house or greenhouse will look bare, you’ll think think “oh I have a space there”....then accidentally on purpose forget you have plants outside your seasonal display that soon enough will need to come back inside.

8. Propagate, rescue or buy new plants to fill the spaces left in the house, all while original plants are on holiday outside. I am a maximalist when it come to planting displays the more the merrier. 

9. When over wintering time comes around many tropical plants are not hardy and therefore need overwintering in a heated greenhouse, or if you are like me, you’ll bring them into your home to overwinter,  molly coddle them, then display them all beautifully around your Christmas tree and thus begins your tropical Christmas display.

10. Hey presto we have a jungle house and garden, then this process will most likely carry on for years to come. So next time you forget to water a plant and accidentally un-alive it, don’t worry it’s just a space for a new plant, you’ll find one that loves you just as much as you love it instead. This little smoke and mirror method of displaying plants also means when something starts to look tired I can swap it out with something else. House plant displays in your living room can be staged in the same way using anything you have to hand to change up the levels at which plants are displayed . I often use books, decorative boxes and vases in my home to give all my plants the perfect pedestal to sit on. And don’t forget those little propagations look fabulous in little groups too. 

For more ideas and for some inspiration, I love to go to gardening shows. This year I am really excited to be exhibiting a show border on behalf of eBay to display the wide rage of plants, materials and gardening accessories available from eBay. BBC Gardeners' World Live  Is a fantastic opportunity to engaged with designers, nurseries and fellow plantaholics, and you might even be lucky enough to meet some of the Gardeners' World presenters. 

Follow Kate on Facebook, Instagram or visit her website here.

 

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