Guest Blog: Jo Brinkman – Planting Large Pots

Jo Brinkman, founder of Pots of Style, believes being brave and bold with large planters can be rewarded with some amazing results.  Here she encourages you to scale up the size of your planters, pots and troughs and be bold with your planting.



The reward of planting pots

Like many gardeners, I started my gardening life planting pots and it probably won’t come as a surprise that that was one of the catalysts for starting Pots of Style in 2004.

Friends liked what I did and would ask me to plant up their pots, planters and window-boxes more and more regularly.  It’s something I loved doing then and still enjoy now.

Planting pots is very rewarding, and the results can give great pleasure for months and even years in some cases.  However, people can feel daunted, especially by larger-scale planters.

How many plants do you use?  What kind is best?

  • Haddonstone Gothic Urn and Base

    Haddonstone Gothic Urn and Base with thrill spill and fill elements

Thrill, spill and fill!

Large planters require that you follow the basic rules of ‘thrill, spill and fill’ carefully.

The “thrill” elements need to be tall and structural adding drama and perhaps movement.

The “fill” additions should balance the other two by adding colour and texture and covering the bare compost.

Meanwhile, the “spill” earns its keep by softening the edges of the planter to generate additional texture and colour interest.


  • planted border with shrubs photographed in autumn

Border on the adventurous

In planters more than 40cm in diameter, it’s also fun to experiment with plants more commonly seen in a border.

Grasses can take centre stage, for example, or will add movement alongside other shrubs, such as cornus with their bright red stems in the winter.

If you’re planting in the autumn, it’s always a good idea to poke in a few different kinds of bulbs such as irises, narcissi and even tulips – but keep an eye on moisture levels throughout early spring because we’ve had some scorching spring weather the last few years and the later bulbs don’t flourish when they’re thirsty.

  • Haddonstone Magnolia Vase

    a big bold statement created with large planters from haddonstone

A single, bold statement

If you want to adopt a single species approach to your planter, fill it to bursting.

Water the plants very generously before you plant, then you’ll find it easier to fit the root balls into smaller spaces.

Think of those massed red pelargoniums in the window boxes in Switzerland bursting with colour.

  • Pheasant Grass, Euphorbia, Cornus and tulips

    seasonal structure is created using pheasant grass and tulips in a Haddonstone Gothic Urn

Seasonal structure

In the summer, when you are faced with a broad array of bedding plants, structure and height is often what is lacking in a larger planter.

Try a grass such as Pheasant Tail’s Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana) or the stately drama of Salvia Amistad underplanted with the felted and fragrant minty leaves of Pelargonium tomentosum and perhaps some Cosmos to offer colour contrast and a feathery leaf shape.

Or what about trying a smaller Dahlia?  Vino and Totally Tangerine can both work well in a large pot.  In the winter, a simple planter of hellebores can really hold its own.

If the planter is large enough, you can also add grasses and ferns and a few bulbs in the spaces for spring impact.

  • Haddonstone Adam Trough

    Large Adam Trough Planter from Haddonstone

Be brave and bold with large planters and prepare to be amazed by your results.

Just don’t forget to water regularly and feed across the growing season!

Your efforts will be richly rewarded.

About Joanna Brinkman

As the daughter of a tea planter married to a keen gardener, Joanna could say plants were in her blood.  Her passion for gardening was lit by her mother who could no longer tend the garden because of illness.  Joanna took over and the gardening bug took hold.  After moving away from home, Joanna tended the largest pots that would fit on a very small balcony and then when she moved to a house with a garden, she started working for a garden landscaping company and drawing up border designs.  In 2004, she set up Pots of Style to specialise in planters and window boxes but since then clients have sought her out to create planting designs for long sweeping borders and intimate courtyard gardens, family gardens and roof terraces.  Joanna is married with two children and lives in East Haddon.

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