Create a summer planter inspired by a winning Chelsea garden designer

The perfect plant selection to create a pocketful of the country in a flowerbox

Be inspired by three times Chelsea Gold medal-winner Marcus Barnett’s floral installation for Scott’s Restaurant in Mayfair this year, and use herbs and flowers to create a summer planter or two of your own this summer.

To celebrate the start of the Chelsea Flower Show, Marcus has transformed the terrace in front of Scott’s of Mayfair into a pocket of the countryside, with a mixture of edible and ornamental perennials planted in recycled, hessian-lined apple boxes that are placed beside guests’ tables as they eat and drink. Balls of willow sit amongst the plants as supports, to support the herbs and flowers as they grow. “With luck, they’ll also help the plants survive even the most high-spirited of passers-by,” Marcus says.

Watch the video here.

To recreate the look, you will need a planter with drainage holes and some hessian (old grain sacks are ideal), potting compost, or potting media, and your choice of plants (see below).

Place crocks at the bottom of your planter to aid drainage and to ensure the holes do not become blocked. Using pot feet to raise the container off the ground will help too.

If you have large, very deep pots or planters, you can fill the lower part with polystyrene packing blocks; this will further aid drainage and save money and weight in the volume of compost needed. If you want your plants to last long term, they need maximum root space so a full pot of compost is best; you should also add in some slow-release fertiliser.

Water your planter well immediately after planting, to ensure the compost does not dry out. Rain may subsequently do some of the work for you but all containers will still need occasional watering, even in winter, so remember to check them and water as necessary.

To help slow the drying out process, and add an additional decorative element, if you wish, you could use stones or gravel to top dress the soil.
Pots and planters that are filled with compost and plants can be very heavy so put them into position before you plant them up.

Marcus’s Scott’s Pockets of the Countryside are planted with:


Anthriscus sylvestris
‘Ravenswing’ (cow parsley), Astrantia ‘Venice’, Astrantia ‘Star of Beauty’, Briza media, Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Profusion’, Erodium manescavii, Fragaria vesca (strawberry), Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), Geranium phaeum ‘Album’, Geranium phaeum ‘Walkure’, Lunaria annua, Malva moschata ‘Alba’, Origanum vulgare (origano), Polemonium ‘Lambrook Mauve’, and Trifolioum rubens.


Looking ahead…

With a bit of forward planning, you can extend your pots and planters’ season of interest into autumn and winter by adding in grasses and slow-growing shrubs to form the backbone of your planting. As an alternative to the willow balls used by Marcus, you could use a clipped buxus; alternatively, try Escallonia leavis, Callunia vulgaris or a rosemary.

Adding bulbs such as tulips and daffodils is an easy way to extend container plantings into the spring. Try the dwarf Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’, which is ideal for containers. When planting up your container in late summer or early autumn, simply push the bulbs in between the existing plants before infilling with compost mixed with grit.
Bear in mind that many perennials will eventually outgrow life in a flowerbox, although the idea of these countryside pockets is to let them do so for as long as possible. Otherwise, most can be transplanted to a border in the garden, where they can continue to grow.

For more gardening ideas, visit the Homes & Gardens website.

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