Pruning the planters

Formal planter nasturtium fire engine 8.14

Last night, our not-so-formal planter with reds and oranges in the sunlight, harmonising with the returning fire engine at Preston Circus, Brighton

Yesterday, we finally got around to doing summer maintenance on the Preston Circus planters. It’s been fascinating to see how each planter has developed a very individual character, and reacts differently to the changing seasons and conditions. People passing were lovely and encouraging – and their comments have confirmed our aim: that the planters look pleasing, but unlike the ‘carpet-bedding’ of conventional municipal planters.

Cottage garden 8.14The ‘cottage garden’ planter by the Duke of Yorks cinema was so pretty in June with its perfumed pinks and abundance of delicate blooms: white feverfew, blue cornflower, violet verbena bonariensis, lime alchemilla mollis, and white ivy geraniums. We also put in some coreopsis to bring a vibrant yellow into the mix. But the heat of July has taken its toll on the pinks and the alchemilla, and indeed the coreopsis, and they badly needed deadheading. The cornflowers and the verbena bonariensis had been blown about and needed staking.

The ‘formal’ planter, also at the Duke of Yorks, has come into its own: no longer looking ‘formal’ but full of strong, bushy and exuberant growth. The central cornus alba sibirica has grown well and has lovely light green leaves. The white sedum – cast off from a supermarket – looks robust, as does our lavender. The red pelargoniums have brought brightness and colour, as has the unplanned dark blue lobelia at the front. And we’ve managed to restrain the nasturtiums to one starring role: a trailing yellow in the north corner. The yellows, reds and purple of the verbena are a sensational colour combination. As we left at around 6.30 yesterday, the sun was picking up the yellows, reds and oranges in this bed just as the red and yellow fire engine went past to the fire station at Preston Circus – see photo above.

Seaside 8.14 yellow blueseaside and traffic 8.14We concentrated yesterday on the ‘seaside’ planter with its blue and yellow colour scheme. This planter – supposed to be our ‘heat-loving, drought-resistant’ bed – did really well in the wet spring, but has looked tired and bedraggled throughout much of the summer. We added in some garden centre half-price refugees: a yellow argyranthemum and three pale yellow trailing petunias, along with two more intense blue lobelia to bring in some strong colour against the blue greys of the santolina and festuca grass. Eve also planted a demure nasturtium, a restrained and well-behaved variety in bright orange.

Seaside orange nasturtium 8.14


We did a summer chop on the santolina, which had gone woody, in order to free up space for the put-upon rosemary prostratus to grow more freely. We also cut back woody stems from the bewildering lampranthus – why isn’t it flowering? I think I have an idea: even after torrential rain on Monday, the soil in this planter was dry and fine. It’s just not absorbing the moisture.

I shall be down again at Preston Circus mulching with a bag of recycled-waste soil enhancer. We are due for rain on Saturday.

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