Richard Loader, a Nurseryman with 40 years experience, he is also a professional photographer whose photos of flowers appear in journals and magazines.
Richard indentified the main principles. The shape of the pot matters. Avoid a narrow base and a pot that tapers at the top as that makes potting on difficult. He recommends Yorkshire Flower Pots. Drainage is very important, as it facilitates essential aeration , and as terracotta breathes it is a useful material. Summer plants may not need drainage but it is necessary in the Winter when peat decomposes into mud. Use stones, polystyrene pieces or vermiculite to draw out the liquid. Pots can break because they are sodden and frozen, so also use pot feet. If a plant is going to be in a pot for some time use compost with soil in it, eg. John Innes, “to prevent a muddy mess in the pot,” and to make it heavier so it will not fall over,. Use peat-free soil, good for drainage. In Summer place the pot on a saucer. Richard reminded us “The wind will blow”, so invest in good, heavy pots.
Re-potting:- use the same size of pot, scrape away soil that is compacted and add fresh compost.
Potting on: use a pot one size up: the space around the plant is important for access and the plant’s stability.
Top dressing:- if the compost has shrunk and is solid, rake carefully and add compost with Osmocote mixed in (not sprinkled); it reacts to temperature and moisture, so then water.
Feeding:- Tomato and seaweed are effective and Richard reminded us that with pots you are in control. As he has over 100 pots he is indeed in charge! He adds however, “Don’t over-pot”.
Dead-heading:- do this regularly, to produce large, vigorous plants. The secret is to take off the head just before it is dead, taking as much stalk as possible, to encourage more blooms and discourage the plant from setting seed. The effectiveness of the approach was evident in the robust plant specimens Richard had brought to illustrate his talk. So many plants will thrive in containers, he assured us.
This was a pleasingly interactive talk as Richard invited questions throughout and Club members responded with enthusiasm. A truly informative presentation including Richard’s demonstrated technique with a simple garden hose to ensure the all important consistent watering, throughout , morning and evening.