Marie Staunton: Grow pots of gold
Get the wow factor from your containers
If you haven't already planted up your containers, it isn't too late; if you have and your petunias have taken a battering from the rain, there is very little you can do except dead-head and dead-head some more.
I always imagine that we are going to get a Mediterranean summer, even though we hardly ever do, but a girl can dream. When I plant up baskets or containers, I allow for the fact that I could be away for a couple of days – I use vermiculite in with the compost and a slow-release fertiliser so that all the bases are covered regarding moisture and food.
Most neighbours will throw an eye on your tubs and baskets, but they can't be running in and out like a fiddler's elbow watering and feeding for a month while you're enjoying the real Mediterranean.
Ideally, you should group your pots and containers together in a bit of shade. That way, your kindly neighbour won't have to traipse around the garden looking for each and every pot.
Choosing plants for containers and baskets is very much a personal thing, but I like to go for plants that will flower into October, and you cannot beat the old geranium for that.
Granted, it's not everyone's favourite, but it is undeniably a good solid plant for this job. Both the upright and trailing ones are equally valuable and they tend not to be on the slug lunch menu, which is always a plus.
You probably noticed that the winter-flowering pansies only really got going in May, and who could blame them? Don't throw them away; cut them back hard and add in a few summer ones to bulk them out.
I have a little soft spot for marigolds, and they keep our polytunnel free of greenfly, so I have added them into all my pots and baskets for a real shock of colour. You can soften the impact of the very vibrant orange and yellows by contrasting them with purple pansies – or, if you are willing to dead-head all summer, purple petunias are a good companion.
Felicia is a cheery lilac-blue, tiny little daisy known in some parts as the happy plant, and I'd have to say that I would be very happy to include it in my garden any time. It is part of the asteraceae family and most asters are fond of a bit of sunshine, so they will be happy in any container or as part of a mixed herbaceous border.
Without doubt, the way to prolong the life of a hanging basket or container is consistent love and attention, and dead-heading is the big secret to keeping them going for weeks on end.
With the bright mornings, I tend to be up really early as watering early will sort your plants out for the day. Watering midday means that a lot of the water will evaporate off the compost.
I tend to like the quiet times of the day, so early morning and late evening watering suits both myself and my container-grown plants.
Years ago, before all the fancy pre-moulded hanging basket liners, moss was used to contain the plants and it was a very effective moisture-retaining liner. It's not a practical solution these days but it looked very natural, so by packing the plants into your baskets or pots you are covering up all the surface area that might be exposed to drying winds or, dare I say it, a bit of sunshine.
The worst thing you can do when potting up containers for a summer display is to be mean with your planting. Pack them in like sardines and they will repay you by filling out the pot beautifully.
The neighbours will wonder why your containers look so amazing.
I'm always on the lookout for a day out that will appeal to all the family and if you are lucky enough to find yourself in the gorgeous county of Cork around July 13, the Blarney in Bloom summer garden fair takes place in the beautiful grounds of Blarney Castle.
Opening time is 10am and the entry fee is €5 per adult; children go free.