Containers with a difference at RHS Harlow Carr

Looking back at my photos from our Yorkshire trip earlier in the summer I realised I’d not shared any photos from my visit to RHS Harlow Carr, which was one of the main reasons for heading North. I still have ambitions to visit all four of the RHS gardens this year, and with Wisley and Hyde Hall already visited this northern gem was one that needed some planning, as it’s not just around the corner from South London. 

The final garden, if I manage it, is RHS Rosemoor in Devon, and you’ll not be sure to hear I have a plan for that too. I’ve already had one attempt visiting there scuppered by the snow, so I’m hoping everything aligns for a visit in November.  

But more of that another day. I do have plenty of photos to share from Harlow Carr and I’m starting with some unusual containers which lined the steps down into the garden, which I’m sure many people missed in their eagerness to explore the gardens proper, but I do like an out of the ordinary container or two and it was MOH that was shuffling me along to see what else we could find. 

And when it comes to succulents in an old boot, that’s a pretty tough job. 

succulents are at home in most containers, even a boot

I’d plans to plant up some old wellies, but MOH wasn’t so keen, but as you know that’s unlikely to stop me, and I’m sure when they’re in full grow he’ll be more appreciative. 

A plain cup and saucer was the perfect setting for this vibrant pink flower, which also had the look of a succulent about it. I’m less sure about this, mainly because I’m sure I’d definitely over water and end up drowning it, which wouldn’t be good. 

a cup and saucer with a difference at RHS Harlow Carr

Strawberries in a wire basket on the other hand could be just my thing. I’ve brought many strawberry plants back from the allotment which are currently growing in several trugs, and I really need to sort out how to grow them properly next year. 

strawberries in a basket

Olive oil cans have long been another ambition of mine, we do use olive oil but not this much and I’ve yet to source a supply of empty tins that works - I’m open to ideas on that one, if you have any! 

Olive oil tins make great containers

I think they’d make a great edging to a plain path or on the patio grouped togetuand would be ideal for herbs. Galvanised, or even lead buckets are also on my wish list, and seeing the succulents looking so good against the grey hasn’t deterred me.  

succulents in a rustic bucket

In fact you’ve probably already noticed that succulents and small leafed plants feature heavily in these containers, and I’m sure that’s no accident as they’re more likely to withstand drought and trying conditions. 

ceramic pots and a mini garden of plants at RHS Harlow Carr

Even the containers which had a ‘garden’ planted in them generally followed this rule of thumb, and these people at RHS Harlow Carr know their stuff.  

An enamel bowl gets similar treatment

I also have enamel bowl envy after seeing the photo above, though I’m not sure if I could use one as a container - I guess that would depend on its condition.  

So here’s a brief intro to my visit to the RHS’ most northerly garden, and there’s plenty more to come. But what do you think, are any of these containers for you? 

A succulent picnic

Well you know me and succulents, so imagine my delight when I spotted this display in the middle of the Floral Marquee at Gardeners' World Live.  I know.  Who'd have thought to have used these containers in such a way, and with great effect.  When I saw these, my own succulents were happily set to remain in their mini-trough and the small army of new plants I have in the green house would be joining them.  However now that we've given up the allotment, I'm having a rethink on where my succulents go as their position is now needed for veg growing.  It's not all bad, and they will be staying, in fact they're more likely to be moving to the patio, so I'll get to see them even more - which feels like a great result.

A fully stocked picnic hamper

I'm not sure their new home will be a picnic basket though, or even a 'castle bucket' although that would be fun.  The one below in the colander (number 621) reminds me of sprout-like vegetables - I think the number is because it had already been sold, and the new owner would collect it at the end of the show.

succulents and a spade on the beach at Gardeners' World Live

That was one of the main differences that I noticed at the show, that there were many more plants to buy than at Chelsea.  Not a bad thing at all, because Gardeners' World Live is aimed at real life gardeners and so it makes sense to make real life plants available to feed the inspiration available.  And I'm sure it makes it a lot easier for exhibitors to close down at the end of a show.

succulents on a silver platter

I'm not sure if MOH had sussed out the raffle ticket approach but I think he clocked that I had and quickly moved me along at that point, or tried to anyway.  We never got as far as the prices for any items in the Floral Marquee, and I suspect he knows me well enough to know that asking the price means we're well on the way to emotional commitment, and therefore more likely to purchase.  I'm guessing he didn't fancy carrying any of these home on the train, and I can't say I blame him!

a wicker basket of succulents

It would be relatively easy to replicate this look though wouldn't it?  And I think charity shops would quickly become your friend and hopefully a good source of vessels.  The thing to remember is that succulents need good drainage, which should make the colander ideal.

the ultimate picnic basket with succulents galore

They also don't like wet roots so mixing sand into the compost works well.  I discovered my aloe vera turning brown again after I'd successfully revived it, and then realised it was sitting in a pot of water unintentionally.  It's still drying out but is recovering again, thankfully. It's back in the house too and seems more comfortable there than in the direct sunlight of the garden table.

succulents and sand

Their roots are pretty shallow which helps when it comes to alternative planters, and why you'll often spot them in saucer-like pots.  I like the densely packed approach and looking back at these photos now feel quite inspired to redo my planting arrangements, though of course I think I'll need another one or two types to add to my growing collection... 


Succulents galore, sigh...

I do enjoy a succulent, and that's why almost every visit I've made - and no doubt will continue to make - to Wisley involves a trip to the Alpine House. I've already shared the Spring colours of the irises, narcissus and muscari, the small flowers that pack a big punch and today it's the turn of the succulents. 

It's all too easy to forget these are also alpines, some are outside the greenhouses while others are nestled amongst the flowers I've already shared. My favourites were those outside, so that's where most of my photos come from.

Purple and green succulents in and around the Alpine House at RHS Wisley

It's only recently that I've learnt that succulents can change colour, somehow I think if the ones above were just green, while they'd still look great, they wouldn't look anywhere near as dramatic?

The ones growing out of the hexagonal brick below are densely packed and therefore no doubt highly promiscuous. But in succulents, that's a good thing!

And growing out of a brick by the Alpine House at RHS Wisley

I was intrigued by the leaves on this one - it's inside, and almost has the look of a cyclamen doesn't it?

Cyclamen-like leaves in the Alpine House at RHS Wisley
Plenty of succulents in and around the Alpine House at RHS Wisley

The ones above had an almost water lily-like feel to them don't they, with gravel obviously, not water.  Having scoured the inside of the Alpine house, I was back outside admiring those nestled among upturened slabs and stones, which I'm sure is why these are a rockery favourite.

moss and succulents in and around the Alpine House at RHS Wisley

Even with the weeds and decaying leaves they manage to look interesting don't they?  Maybe I should refer to my plot as "interesting" from now on...

gravel and stones on end providing an ideal home for the succulents outside the Alpine House at RHS Wisley
Proof that they'll grow almost anywhere if the conditions are right

Seeing them nestled amongst the slabs here with the lichen has given me an idea. I'm struggling to find something that will grow in a narrow strip between our patio and fence, so I'm wondering if some succulents may help. While I've got one or two already, perhaps I should add to my collection and introduce some different varieties to try it with... 

Such detail on these succulents in and around the Alpine House at RHS Wisley

I'd be keen to have something like these above too - just look at the detail? I love their spikiness, oh dear I've a feeling a trip to the garden centre could be coming on...