NOW, not all container growing can approach the soaring magnificence of the huge Papilio Machaon we discovered at the Caen Jardin Botanique in northern France (pictured top) — but plantings both great and small can make a statement...

The representation of the Swallowtail butterfly was created on an angled frame container from 3,750 Alternanthera Hemigraphis plants to give the deep purple edging and wing veins and 5,750 A. Magnifica to provide the vibrant yellow.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see more unusual containers...

Now that may be beyond the capability of almost all but Alternanthera makes a striking border and container plant with wondrous colours, and it can be strategically pinched-out to maintain shape or allowed to grow free-form.

Isle of Wight County Press: Sue Day's succulent boots.

Sue Day found a new use for these boots!

Otherwise known as Joseph’s Coat, because they provide a colour coat of many colours — several shades of burgundy, red, orange, yellow and lime green — they are easily propagated from cuttings, which is just as well for the French jardiniers if there is a heavy frost or snowfall...

They are frost tender perennials, grown as annuals in cooler climes, with varieties having single or bi-coloured leaves and some with an entire rainbow in a single plant. They range in size from dwarfs to 12 inch foliage mounds.

The French connection is an extreme example of what can be achieved in a container, but massive and tiny container examples can be seen all over.

All have one thing in common; they mostly need more care than plants and trees grown in the garden, excepting succulents and other drought resistants which thrive on neglect.

Even large shrubs and trees, such as the magnificent Magnolia Grandiflora in its massive tub in Cowes High Street and its surrounding collection; Canary palms, and just about everything else can be grown in large tubs although root restriction will limit size, to an extent, and probably longevity.

Olive and fig trees grow especially well in containers — thriving on root restriction. They obviously like a sunny spot and given the right conditions they can easily live for many years, the latter providing succulent fruit.

Wisterias and clematis can be grown in containers but they will not be as successful as those planted in the garden. Ideally, only plant wisteria in a pot if you’re training the plant as a standard.

Choose the largest container you can find and use a good tree and shrub compost. Water well and feed in spring with a high potash fertiliser to encourage flowering.

I have grown them from seed, but be prepared to wait for 20 years for the first blooms! Even if a grafted variety is bought from a nursery it can take a few years to blossom.

Plant all container shrubs and trees in a soil-based compost, in a large, heavy container that won’t blow over. And, as with all container cultivation, they will need regular watering and feeding.

Take care not to let the compost dry out, which can happen quickly in hot weather, or become waterlogged in winter.

A wide variety of containers can be utilised, from the purpose-built to the telephone boxes of Bath to Sue Day’s the ‘Duchess of Calbourne’s’ succulent choice. She said: “My husband’s redundant tap-dancing boots were ready-made for re-purposing...”


It might have been more than 18 months of frustration, caused by the obvious, but the Isle of Wight Garden Plant Group is back in the swing...

The group has organised its first lecture since March last year — a visit by writer, lecturer and notably the author of the Saturday Telegraph’s sadly defunct Thorny Problems, Helen Yemm.

Helen, down-sized from her two acre garden in Sussex 15 years ago and her talk will chart the development of her much smaller, garden in East Sussex - proving that gardens don’t have to be big to be beautiful.

The lecture will be held in the Parish Rooms, Town Lane, Newport, on November 4 at 7.30pm. Tickets costing £8 will be available on the door. There will be a raffle and refreshments too.


  • On the Isle of Wight, hold back until the end of next month from cutting back yellowing asparagus foliage to within two inches of the ground. In colder climes it can be done now.
  • Clear up fallen leaves regularly on your lawn to allow light to the grass and prevent dead patches.
  • A last mowing can be made this month before leaving your lawn for the winter. It might need another light cut next month if the weather stays warm and encourages new growth.
  • Recut any lawn edges if needed. Put in edging to maintain a sharp line and make future maintenance easier.
  • Clean out water butts and let the autumn rains refill them. Install an additional butt ready for next year if you have the space. Keep your eyes peeled — they are often available secondhand much more cheaply.
  • Apply a winter wash to the trunks and branches of fruit trees to kill off overwintering pests once harvest is over.

Are you an Isle of Wight gardener with a question for Richard? Email him on