This weekend I had a go at Life Drawing and, yes, it was every bit as demanding as I thought it would be. Last month I was offered a choice of bedding plants from Plant Me Now - how difficult could it be to create perfect winter pots?
It was my first venture into both winter bedding and designing pots with it. Thinking tonally, I requested two that are new to their range - Viola Teardrops Pink Blush and Lavender Lavance - and a stalwart bugle, Ajuga Burgundy Glow, which has lovely pinky-violet variegation.
Clever, I thought. Three short, bluey-leaved lavenders in the centre of a pot; pinky-purply bugle encircling them, showing the odd creamy splash; and an outer ring of blushing pink violas. A doddle. Why on earth are there so many magazine articles, telling you how to plant pots?
They arrived. I hadn't received stock from Plant Me Now before and I was impressed. From my visit to Ball Colegrave I know that much effort went into researching good packaging and, although the box was left on its side in the porch, it wouldn't have mattered if it had been upside-down. The packaging keeps soil in its place and plants well protected. The plants themselves looked bounding with health.
The other thing I like about Plant Me Now is that the plants are ready to go. I didn't have to hang around, nurturing anything, I could just plant up the pot.
Space: massively underestimated. No way was I going to cram in three lavenders, five bugles and five violas, as planned.
Combination: bugle = bushy and lavender = petite. Both lovely. Not pot companions.The robustly leaved bugle sort of overwhelmed the more whimsical-looking violas. Not pot companions.
So here's Plan B: One lavender, surrounded by all five violas.
What of the bugle?
Though I says it myself - and in opposition to Husband, who proffered an unasked opinion on colour contrast - I'm rather proud of the way the plants complement each other tonally.
So, rather than remove the bugle elsewhere, I potted one up by itself and set it next to lavender/viola combo. I would have put more in, but the plants are a good size so one is almost filling the pot already, and being in "lonely splendour", so to speak, gives it a certain gravity all its own, which it lives up to with the variegated colouring. Completely accidentally, I've entered the realms of blending pots together as well as plants.
So, unexpectedly I've now also got four lavenders in a trough, where I think they'll knit together into a rather smart little hedge that I might transfer into the ground when I've found the right spot, and four more bugle that, several weeks down the line, are still in the soil they arrived in and still thriving (obviously supplied in a good growing medium), and awaiting to adorn the top of a much larger pot where I'm intending to place a small tree.
As a viola virgin, I really didn't know what to expect, so I've been pleased with the way they've taken off. They also, accidentally, fulfil Husband's demand for contrast as they start off yellow and gradually acquire their lilac-y hue from the top petals down (it is lilac more than pink, but plant expert, Tim Milward, of Plant Me Now, suspects that soil and weather conditions play a part in that). The yellow picks out the creamy splashes on the bugle.
I chose violas because I was so impressed by the massive display that Wisley put on last year as part of its Autumn Planting for Year Round Colour campaign. They made a very cheerful show.
Teardrop violas are already a popular series (Pink Blush is a new colour). They have a semi-trailing, cascading habit, which should suit my pot but, even better, in October's Gardening Which?, they report that Teardrops displayed the best winter flowering of all the violas they trialled and continued well beyond spring. By July, apparently, they were trailing beautifully.
Now, all you out there with pot+bedding experience, does the following sound familiar? There's something very addictive about planting up pots. I want to have another go. I want to tweak what I've done with a slightly taller lavender in the middle.
The possibilities seem endless, but do you ever find that you're absolutely satisfied? I fear the answer is no, and that the only remedy is to keep having another go.
If you'd like more on Plant Me Now, visit Catharine Howard's post Plants by Post - do I rate them?