Cover image for Country containers
Country containers
Donaldson, Stephanie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Newton Abbot : David & Charles, 1999.
Physical Description:
168 pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library SB418 .D66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



Create country beauty indoors and out with wonderful garden containers rugged and wooden, decorated in folkloric patterns, or even woven like a basket. Varied styles -- all fully rooted in rural traditions from around the world -- come complete with projects, plant profiles, and background on motifs and materials.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Donaldson offers a multitude of ideas for garden containers and container gardening, beginning with a style she calls Mediterranean--brightly painted pots and brightly colored plants. Then there is American Country style, inspired by the furniture and quilts of the Shaker, Amish, and New England communities. Seaside style uses driftwood, shells, and pebbles as decoration. And Decorated Country style is inspired by the decorative traditions of many countries. Ten craft projects are included: painting terracotta pots and constructing a trough, window boxes, fernwork pots, China mosaic pots, moss and twig pot covers, verdigris pots, basil boxes, and a plant tub. There are also plant profiles--pelargoniums, miniature bulbs, grasses, rushes, sedges, scented plants, ferns, lilies, buttercups, daisies, and ornamental vegetables. Each page contains dazzling color photographs by Juliette Wade. --George Cohen

Library Journal Review

These British books offer spectacular photographs showing delightful, creative arrangements of plants in a variety of containers. Donaldson (Plants for Small Spaces) suggests colors, container types, and plants to create ten different gardens, from Mediterranean to woodland to American country. Each chapter includes illustrated, easy-to-follow instructions for making containers like Proven‡al painted pots or fernwork pots. Each chapter also profiles a group of plants suitable for growing in containers, e.g., miniature bulbs, scented plants, and ferns. More an idea book than a cultural how-to, this unique book stresses evoking specific moods. Writing for the beginner, gardeners Jackson and Hutchinson explain how to grow plants in containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes, offering more cultural information than Donaldson. Sprinkled throughout are photos of planted containers specifying the numbers and types of plants necessary to create each look. The authors end with "Top Plants," their recommendations of plants that grow well in containers. Written for a different climate than much of North America, these books contain little information on how to overwinter tender plants or grow bulbs. Gardening in Containers (Ortho, 1997) and Bill Marken's Container Gardening for Dummies (IDG, 1998) would be good choices for Northern or beginning container gardeners. However, these two titles are recommended for all gardeners looking for fresh ideas for their container gardens.ÄSue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Mediterranean Conjure up a corner of Provence in your garden with brightly painted pots, dazzling flowers and fragrant herbs. Containers are perfect for many of the Mediterranean plants which thrive in hot, dry conditions and need a well-drained soil. Once they are established, these plants are undemanding and easy to grow. EVEN IF YOU HAVE never visited the Mediterranean, the mention of it will certainly conjure up images in your head. Think of an azure sky, a turquoise sea, white- painted buildings and scarlet geraniums and you are instantly transported to one of the Greek islands. Picture red earth, stone terraces and hazy sunlight shining through the silver-grey foliage of olive trees onto deep purple lavender and flag iris and you have conjured up the view from the vine-shaded terrace of a Provençal farmhouse. The Mediterranean is a sensual landscape where everything seems to be more intense -- colour, scent, sound and taste. Understandably, it is for many of us our dream landscape.     Inevitably, for some of us it will remain just that, but it is still possible to create an area in the garden which becomes your own little piece of the Mediterranean during the warm summer months. This might be on a tiny scale -- perhaps an alcove in a wall painted a chalky sky blue in which you have placed a scarlet geranium in a terracotta pot -- or a more ambitious scheme whereby the sunniest corner of your garden is transformed into a typical Provençal terrace, with a dark green metal table and chairs under a vine-clad pergola, surrounded by pot- grown lemons, olives and oleanders -- the perfect place to eat al fresco meals and enjoy the long summer evenings.     Although it is true that many of the plants we associate with the Mediterranean do require a true Mediterranean climate to thrive when planted directly into the soil, container- grown specimens are perfectly happy provided they are sheltered from the frost; even in Tuscany the lemons are brought under cover for the winter.     As the artists of the Impressionist and Fauve schools recognized, it is the quality of light in the Mediterranean which makes the region so special. Revelling in this light, the blue of the sea and the sky, the grey-green of the foliage, the hot colours of the flowers and the earth tones of ochre, umber and terracotta combine to create a unique palette. If you are fortunate enough to visit Tuscany or Provence and walk in the rocky hills you quickly become aware that you are surrounded by aromatic herbs growing in the most unpromising of situations; a wild thyme emerges from a crevice in the rocks, a shrubby rosemary tumbles over a neglected terrace and silver-leaved sage finds a foothold in a little pocket of soil next to a path. Ironically, despite our best endeavours the much-pampered herbs which we grow at home often seem to struggle to survive.     To grow Mediterranean herbs successfully you need to give them conditions as close as possible to those they would enjoy naturally. In other words, they need to be in full sun, in free-draining soil which is not too rich, and they should not be overwatered. Terracotta or stone pots or troughs are ideal containers for this type of plant; plastic is not as good as it tends to retain moisture and does not hold warmth the way the other materials do.     Ideally, the herbs should be planted in a loam-based compost with about one- third added coarse grit for additional drainage. If the herbs have been commercially grown in a peat-based compost you will need to soak the plant and gently loosen the rootball when transplanting or the roots will find it difficult to make their way into the loam from the peat. Peat can form a water-resistant plug that seals the plant off from its surroundings, and this is one of the most common reasons for losing plants whether they are transplanted into containers or into the garden. As with all types of plants, transplanting is best done in the cool of the evening or early morning and, once settled into their new surroundings, the plants should be thoroughly watered. A mulch of coarse grit or gravel on top of the soil will look good, help retain moisture and prevent soil splashing onto the leaves during heavy rain or watering. Although plants which are native to the Mediterranean can survive in very dry conditions, this does not mean that they should not be watered, but it does mean that they prefer light watering and, with the exception of basil, will do better without a saucer under the pot.     Herbs should always be planted where they are easily accessible from the kitchen: romantic thoughts of drifting down to the bottom of the garden and gathering a basket of fresh herbs are unlikely to be as appealing in the pouring rain or in the middle of winter. Group pots of herbs on a tabletop on the terrace, next to the kitchen door, on a windowsill or alongside a path -- somewhere you can brush against them and release their fragrance as you pass by. Many herbs are evergreen and will make an attractive display all year round, especially if they are planted in pots of different shapes and sizes. A standard rosemary looks wonderful in a plain terracotta pot, especially when it is underplanted with creeping thymes. Larger thymes, prostrate rosemaries and sages like to tumble down the sides of urns and this too makes a striking display.     You will find there are many varieties of each herb and choosing the best one can be tricky. Ideally you should select varieties which combine good culinary qualities with decorative foliage and flowers -- for instance, Salvia officinalis 'Icterina' with green and gold variegated foliage and S. o. 'Purpurascens' (purple- leaved sage) are more eye-catching than the usual silver-leaved form. The foliage and flowers of rosemary can vary enormously; for clear, deep-blue flowers choose Rosmarinus officinalis 'Tuscan Blue' or R. o. 'Severn Sea', while R. o. 'Miss Jessopp's Upright' has tall, strong, upright growth. Recommended thymes include the golden-leaved lemon thyme Thymus x citriodorus 'Archer's Gold' and the variegated T . x citriodorus 'Silver Queen'. Although they are not strictly culinary thymes, the creeping thymes are wonderfully fragrant and their carpets of colourful flowers should be included in any herb display -- look out for T. serpyllum 'Annie Hall', T. s. 'Pink Chintz' and T. plicata 'Doone Valley'. Culinary marjoram and oregano are cultivars of the wild varieties and are not particularly decorative, but they are still worth growing as they are essential fiavourings in Mediterranean food and are much loved by bees. Many of the best loved and most familiar Mediterranean plants, including lemon, olive and oleander, make excellent container plants, and contrary to popular belief they do not need to be kept in a heated greenhouse or conservatory over winter, although some do need to be kept frost-free.     The lemon tree is a perfect example. There is a long tradition of growing lemons and other citrus fruit in containers which are stood outside during the spring, summer and autumn months and then moved under cover for the winter. You can still see orangeries in the grounds of many of the grand houses of Europe, with tall arched windows to ensure good light to keep the trees in leaf all year. The original Versailles tubs were designed to hold the citrus trees which graced the parterres and terraces of the palace of Versailles. These straight-sided wooden boxes had metal rings on each side through which poles could be threaded so that the large trees could be moved in and out of the orangeries more easily.     However, you need neither an orangery nor a Versailles tub to grow citrus trees. A sheltered, sunny corner during the summer combined with a frost-free shed, porch or greenhouse for winter will suffice. Citrus x meyeri 'Meyer' (Meyer's Lemon) is the most commonly cultivated variety for container-growing and it will bear lemons from an early age. This is a plant which prefers to be under-potted -- in other words it likes its roots to be fairly restricted -- and it should be moved into a larger pot only when it becomes seriously pot-bound. A loam-based compost suitable for shrubs and trees such as John Innes No. 3 is the best growing medium. Place a good layer of rotted manure in the base of the pot before planting the tree and mulch with a further layer on top of the soil. Water thoroughly when transplanting. Lemons prefer a thorough soaking once a week rather than a light daily watering. Commercial citrus growers have found that the best feed for their pot-grown trees is slow-release fertilizer granules sprinkled on the surface of the compost in the spring. This will last for six months. Foliar feeding is also beneficial, especially when the tree is producing a flush of new leaves and flowers.     Although a lemon tree can tolerate light frost, it should be brought under cover before cold, wet weather sets in. Stand it in a light position, without a saucer under the pot, and water sparingly. It will probably drop many of its leaves and may also have a flush of flowers and some new leaf growth before becoming semi-dormant for the winter. Watch out for scale insect, the major citrus pest -- the scales will be seen under the leaves and at the leaf joints. Use malathion fortnightly to control it. Compared with the citrus family, other Mediterranean shrubs and trees are not quite so demanding, and in fact some positively thrive on a bit of benign neglect. Like the citrus, all will grow best in a loam- based compost such as John Innes No. 3 with a layer of composted manure in the base of the pot and an annual topdressing with more manure.     Olive trees make very successful container plants: they only need repotting once every five years, are tolerant of some frost and will even bear olives! Think of the natural habitat of the olive and you will realize that it is not a demanding plant -- it will grow in very poor soil and needs little water to survive. However, it is also true that growing in these conditions is a slow process and if you haven't got a couple of centuries to spare, your tree will grow faster if fed and watered regularly. In frost-free regions, the olive can be kept outside all year provided it is in a warm, sheltered spot, but in colder regions it should be brought under cover during the winter.     The oleander ( Nerium oleander ) is a beautiful shrub with showy flowers in shades of pink, red, white, cream and even yellow. After flowering, the stems which have borne the flowers should be cut back to near the base. The oleander only flowers on new growth. Wear gloves when pruning this plant, as the sap is poisonous; in fact, all parts of the plant are poisonous and it is not recommended for a garden which is used by small children.     Drive along the coast of Provence in February and the hillsides will be yellow with the flowers of mimosa ( Acacia dealbata ). In the south of France this is the quintessential spring flower just as the daffodil is in northern countries. If you live in a mild region you can leave your mimosa outside all year, but in other areas it will need some frost protection. As this is a plant which flowers very early in the year it is best kept in a porch or conservatory where you will be able to admire its fragrant flowers. Later in the year its feathery foliage will be a good backdrop to various Mediterranean plants.     Other typically Mediterranean plants which are easy to cultivate and essential to have if you wish to turn your garden into a corner of Provence or Tuscany are lavender, agapanthus and arum lily.     Lavender comes in many varieties and colours; although the deep colours make the most impact, some of the more unusual varieties such as tender Lavandula dentata and L. pinnata have lovely flowers and soft, feathery, highly aromatic foliage, while French lavender ( L. stoechas ) has extraordinary tufted flowers. Lavenders should be planted in the same way as other aromatic Mediterranean herbs.     Agapanthus and arum lilies will do well in pots, especially when planted in a rich compost with plenty of added manure. Agapanthus flowers best in full sun, but arum lily ( Zantedeschia aethiopica ) prefers partial shade.     In its natural habitat the arum lily is a marginal plant growing along streams in boggy soil. It will grow best in a container when stood in a deep, water- filled saucer, or better still, plunged up to the pot rim in a pond. Creating a Mediterranean garden is not simply about choosing the right plants, although this is an important element. As with all good design, colour, shape and form should be considered and applied to different aspects of the garden -- the hard landscaping, the furniture, the pots, the location, and the plants themselves. On a bright summer's day it may be that your garden can take on some of the characteristics of southern Europe, but it must work on dull, wet days as well, so it may be necessary to make some compromises. A seaside garden in a sunny coastal location can use the bright, hot colours of the Mediterranean palette on walls and woodwork. Lots of white paint, highlighted with deep blues and turquoises, makes an ideal backdrop for vibrant, tumbling geraniums. Even on a dull day the quality of light at the seaside is such that these colours will not look inappropriate. In cooler, cloudier climates it is emulating this light which is the most elusive aspect of creating a Mediterranean garden and a more northerly location will do better to use a softer, warm palette. It is still possible to evoke a corner of Provence by using mauves, lavenders, soft whites, grey-greens and dark greens. Woodwork painted grey or lavender looks wonderful against weathered stone or brick, and while pots of lavenders, artemisias and sage set around the base of a standard rosemary, bay or olive will be deliciously fragrant on a hot day, their subtle beauty will still appeal under a cloudy sky.     Look at any pictures of Mediterranean gardens and you will see that the materials used are often very different to those we use in our gardens. Re-creating a Mediterranean garden with authentic materials can be an expensive business, so this is a time for compromise. Accept that your brick or stone walls or paths will never look typically Provençal and concentrate on the planting, as tumbling herbs and cleverly grouped pots will soon disguise these surfaces. Use mass-produced, easily obtainable pots for most of your plants, and invest in a couple of beautiful Cretan pots to use as focal points. The special pots need not even be planted - in fact a plant may detract from their architectural beauty. Look out for other decorative objects which will enhance your theme, for example tinware lanterns, a carved stone bowl or cushions covered in Provençal fabric. Such things are easily obtainable these days, although many are made in the Far East rather than on the shores of the Mediterranean. Metal garden furniture or a very rustic wooden table and a mixture of old chairs painted appropriate colours will also complement the theme.     Mediterranean style encompasses many countries with many different decorative traditions. How you choose to interpret it is very much a matter of personal taste, but it can be helpful to gather some visual references, so take lots of pictures when you are on holiday and tear out pictures from magazines and holiday brochures -- it's amazing how helpful this can be.     Try not to get carried away in an attempt to encompass all aspects of Mediterranean style in your garden, or the result will look muddled and lacking in theme. Instead, choose your favourite style, be it Spanish courtyard, Tuscan farmhouse or Greek taverna, and select paint colours, containers and plants accordingly. Copyright © 1999 Stephanie Donaldson. All rights reserved.

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