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A step by step guide to creating spring planters

In an extract from her new book 'Modern Container Planting', Isabelle Palmer gives an easy to follow guide to putting together colourful spring planters (and it can all be done in one day)

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By House & Garden | August 7, 2021 | Gardens

If you only have a small courtyard or area of decking, or simply some space outside the back door, a collection of planters can be used to create the impression of a small garden.

Here, I’ve chosen planters made from three different materials, but they’re in similar tones so they complement each other to create an informal scheme.

Although this display is at its peak in late spring and early summer, the mophead hydrangeas will continue flowering late into summer.

Hydrangeas make ideal container plants, thriving in partial shade and giving you a big, showy display of long-lasting flowers. The faded flowerheads can look beautiful in the autumn and winter, rather like faded floral fabric.

Bear in mind, however, that hydrangeas need to be kept well-watered; otherwise you will have a rather wilted display.

The pretty blue veronica flowers will also flower well into late summer, so extending the display’s season of interest.

You can refill with other annuals when the blooms have faded.

Get the look

What you need

Large wicker planter (such as an old log basket), about 60–90 cm (24–35 in) in diameter

Plastic planter with drainage holes (to fit inside the wicker planter)

Stone urn or similar planter, about 60 cm (24 in) in diameter

Tall grey planter, about 40–60 cm (16–24 in) in diameter

Electric drill or hammer and heavy-duty nail (optional)

Drainage crocks

Potting mix

Perlite or vermiculite (to improve drainage)


For the Wicker Planter (Red and Pink Flowers)

1 ‘Wine and Roses’ rhododendron (Rhododendron)

1 ‘Pink and Purple’ columbine (Aquilegia Vulgaris var. Stellata)

1 saxifrage (Saxifraga)

For the Stone Urn (White Flowers)

1 hellebore (Helleborus)

1 mophead hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

1 saxifrage (Saxifraga)

For the Tall Grey Planter (Blue and Purple Flowers)

1 columbine (Aquilegia)

1 mophead hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

1 bi-coloured grape hyacinth (Muscari latifolium)

2 drumstick primula (Primula denticulata)

1 ‘Georgia Blue’ speedwell (Veronica umbrosa)


Established mophead hydrangeas can be pruned in late winter or early spring. Simply cut out one or two of the oldest stems at the base to encourage the plant to produce new growth. Although you can remove the spent flower heads from mophead hydrangeas, it is a good idea to leave them on the plant over winter to provide the new buds emerging below with some protection against frost.


You can water in a special compound feed available from garden centres to maintain the gorgeous blue colour of the mophead hydrangea.

This extract is taken from Modern Container Gardening: How to Create a Stylish Small-space Garden Anywhere by Isabelle Palmer (Hardie Grant, £16). Photography by Nassima Rothacker. Buy a copy here.

This article originally appeared on House & Garden UK.