Debbie Travis: Pots of fun for any garden design, large or small

Container gardening is blossoming as never before. It’s the perfect solution to decorating outdoor spaces with flair. Easy-care and practical containers can be moved around to change the scene. They are easily replanted for each season and the various styles and materials give options for any garden design.

If you are looking for ideas and planting guides for your balcony, patio or garden, gold-medal winner and internationally renowned garden designer George Carter has penned a valuable resource book for you. Perfect Pots for Small Spaces: 20 Creative Container Gardening Projects is a hands-on instruction book filled with beautiful shots of a stunning variety of garden containers taken by photographer Marianne Majerus. Carter offers distinctive decorating tips and instruction on how to finish wood, concrete and terra cotta pots. The bonus is his directions and plant choices for each type and size of pot. He has all the dirt on making your garden spectacular.

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The book is divided into four sections: terra cotta, masonry, metal and wood. For terra cotta pots, the red-brick colour of newly manufactured pots can be softened with paint, lime or antiquing kits. Paint a design with colours that match up with the floral display. Carter illustrates with plants that balance the size and shape of the pot.

Stone planters are very heavy even without the earth and plantings. Get the look with fibreglass reinforced concrete, which is lightweight and great for balconies. Another option is hypertufa, a product that you can mould into any shape or buy readymade. Stone can be primed and painted or left to age.

Shown here is a vertical planting project that utilizes framed lattice panels and square concrete (hypertufa) pots. The framed lattice can be attached to a wall or secured in the ground with posts.

Carter has painted the pots with dark green latex paint and set them in front of the lattice. Ivy grows up the bottom third of the lattice.

A red-twigged linden tree is planted in a central pot and over time, the branches are trained to spread in three rows across the top of the lattice. A mix of petunias and Verbena hang over the edges of the pots showing off a verdant mix of lush greens and whites.

Metals and wirework make attractive vessels. Galvanized metal buckets are bright and sassy and suit a free-spirited bunch of daisies or even sophisticated lilies. Carter decorates a lead-faced trough with a metal zigzag trim around the top. To give the box a patina white vinegar is applied to the surface of the lead with a damp cloth until a mottled whitish-gray effect appears. There are instructions for planting a wirework hanging basket that overflows with petunias, fuchsia, geraniums, heliotropes and Nicotiana.

For that special tree or plant that deserves centre stage, there’s what is known as a Versailles case. Carter explains that these wooden boxes were used at the Palace of Versailles in France in the 17th century for growing exotics such as oranges, lemons and palms, which could then be easily moved into greenhouses during the winter. Versailles cases are also suitable for large shrubs, topiary and masses of summer annuals.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email decorating questions to Follow Debbie at,,

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