Rolling out the barrels

There’s a set of steps in the garden that lead up to the apple and quince tree, forming a focal point. I put a mirror there recently to catch the evening sun, and I want to make this eye-catching space more attractive.

Since last year I’ve had a mixed display on the steps. It’s been a jolly jumble of plastic pots full of of mexican daisy, snapdragons, weigela, willow, strawberry, and whatever else happened to be in flower. The pots were a random collection of shapes and sizes, some of them very faded, and none of them particularly nice.

But this payday, I treated myself to a collection of cedar wood barrels, which are a much more pleasant sight than the sun-bleached plastic.

The top pair are planted with willow, formed into an archway, and underplanted with mexican daisy and bacopa. The middle two contain a couple of so-called ‘XL Dahlia’ which were half price at the shop as they were in a bit of a sorry state. After a soak and a prune I’m sure they’ll perk up nicely.


On the lower steps, are two plastic pots of strawberries. They’re worth keeping out in this prime sunny spot for another few weeks as the fruits ripen, but the’re partly hidden behind the barrels. And I’ve put the prettiest pots, the bronze bowls and clay planters, out at the front.

Over time, I’d like to take all the plastic out of the garden. Some of the markets I’ve visited have had stalls from nurseries that don’t use plastic, but these are in a minority.  Check out for a look at coir plant pots and other alternatives to plastic.

Plastic is cheap, and these planters are lovely but they’re not an option on a tight budget. It’s only after 20 odd years of gardening on a budget that I’m able to splash out on fancy wooden pots. If the environmental costs of plastic were accounted for in the price, I guess they wouldn’t be so cheap.

Half price dahlia, ‘XL Giant’ with bacopa ‘snowflake’ at the front. 

There’s been much debate about plastic in horticulture this year, with Monty Don on BBC Gardeners world campaigning to reduce plastic consumption. I’m about to have a clear out of old pots from the garden and expect to be shocked by how many I’ve gathered.

I’ll reuse and recycle, but it’s better to reduce.

Meanwhile, the plants in the fire garden are growing well. I’ve probably crammed too many plants together and will rejig them as they grow, but for the moment it’s looking good. Me and Davina like to hang out there of an evening.

Davina in the Fire Garden

The veg patch has been reseeded, the broccoli finished and in their place I’ve planted courgettes, peas, lollo rossi, mange tout and spinach. I’ve put a virginia creeper against the fence, and am battling invasive bindweed and raspberry suckers on this patch.

From left: mexican daisy,  rhodedendron, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, potato, fennel, chives, onion, rocket and wild strawberries.

All in all, its been a busy bank holiday weekend so far, and as the rain is clearing up this morning, I’m gearing up to get back out there and tackle the next job.

We’re  in the middle of setting out a second pathway and planting new borders around the lawn. It’s a good job it’s a bank holiday weekend and we’ve got a bit of time to play with. The house remains dusty, the carpet’s not hoovered, and the kitchen’s a state, but those things can wait.

The next job is probably to tackle the disastrous compost area, which is overflowing and overgrown with grapevines and bindweed. I’ve got three large compost bins, full to the brim of the weeds we’re trying to eradicate. Some of this is ready to use, but most of it isn’t. Chucking it all on the garden seems like a very bad plan, carting it all to the municipal compost will be a big challenge.  Suggestions welcome!

As always,  I hope that your plans and plants are coming along nicely, and I say screw the housework and get into the garden!

Jen xx 🙂

2 thoughts on “Rolling out the barrels

  1. We use recycled cans almost exclusively, except only for the boxed specimens. (Boxes can only be used once.) Our clients do not mind because they look more at the quality of the material than the cans that contain them. Rhododendrons have such a slow turnover that even new cans would be grubby by the time the rhododendrons mature anyway. We would have a problem with procuring cans if the ‘factory growers’ were less consumptive and started recycling cans like we do. However, there would be another option. There always is.


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