Summer-flowering plants go on sale from late spring. Arrange them on the ground before buying, to ensure a lively mix of colors, shapes, and heights. Select plants that will flower all summer.
Instead of squashing a large number of shortish plants into a small container, go for a large, wide one. If it is deeper than you need, place an upturned pot in the center to save potting mix. Fill the gap with gravel or crocks.
Pour in the potting mix, then arrange the plants in their pots to check the display from all sides. Place those with trailing growth at the edge where the stems will spill over the rim, and the tall, upright ones in the center.
Soak all your plants before planting. Start in the center, working out to the rim. This ensures that you have enough space to plant your dominant plant without snapping off the stems and buds of the shorter ones around the edge.
Put in the outer plants, making sure they have room to spread. Finally, give the pot a good soaking with an upturned rose spray. Turn the pot daily so that the plants do not all lean one way toward the light.
Excerpted from Simple Steps: Containers for Patios
©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007