In defence of potted colour

by LukeAdmin

By Vickey Taylor

If ever there was or will be a manifesto of my horticultural career this would be on the shortlist of topics – please give potted colour a second chance…

It might sound like I’ve been frolicking through the tulips a little bit too long, but I think these nursery staples have been given a raw deal! These little pots of happiness provide months of easy colour but are often overlooked, mainly because they don’t last forever. In times when it’s getting harder to make those discretionary gardening dollars go the distance, we’re all looking for ways to make our lives beautiful while keeping to the budget, and potted colour is an affordable way to add colour to Wintery days while leaving some change in our purse.

For those who might not be familiar with these bright and flowery friends, ‘potted colour’ is the moniker the nursery industry applies to the variety of eye–catching annual flowers that are sold in 4–inch pots, either singly or as a deal in a group of 4 or 6 plants. Potted colour are most often annual plants which means they complete their life cycle (germinate, grow, flower, set seed and die) all within a single season. Pansies that grow through the winter months, or Petunias flowering through Spring and Summer are two familiar examples.

So if they only last a season, where’s the value in these unsung heroes of horticulture?

While they may be seasonal, a single potted colour plant can be purchased with the spare change you find rustling around in the bottom of your handbag. They can provide a splash of colour in a pot or garden for a solid 3 months or more, all for significantly less than the price of a takeaway coffee, but lasting so much longer. Drop one in a small terracotta pot, tie a ribbon around, and you have a sweet gift for a loved one for under ten dollars. Splash out and take advantage of the six plant multi–buy deal and you’ll have a display pot full of colour by your front door welcoming you home for weeks to come.

Potted colour are perfect for the impatient gardener. They live and grow hard and fast, jumping out of the soil quickly after planting, ready to face the world and making us feel that we are too. In fact, a Snow Daisy that recently moved into my place nearly tripled it’s size in it’s first 3 weeks, with triple the amount of flower–buds to boot, which means it’s currently running at a flower–to–dollar ratio of 10:1! For a few dollars and few minutes of your time in planting them, they can add a spot of interest when planted under larger shrubs or trees when they aren’t in flower. Annual flowering power means there’s regular opportunities to freshen up those beds, pots or hanging baskets, creating interest and highlighting the changing season.

These small plants for a small price offer an opportunity for customising colour in the garden in a way that larger, more expensive plants make it impractical to do. Plant a group of a single species, Lobelia ‘Crystal Palace’ for example – your waterfall of violet flowers can be seen from the street, and you’ve got change from a $20 note. Mix and match colour to highlight parts of your home that you’re proud of, match red French Marigolds to your front door for example, or use their bright swathes of colour to draw the eye away from parts that you’d rather hide! Because they’re seasonal, potted colour varieties are always changing, staying fresh, interesting, appealing.

I hope that despite the short life span, I’ve managed to convince you to take a second look at the potted colour tables next time you’re in the nursery and indulge in a little potted colour pick–me–up. If not, I’ll humbly step down from my soapbox and retreat to my haven of Poppies and Violas for consolation. You’re welcome to join me!

Happy Gardening from the team at Burbank! @Burbank House & Garden Erina Heights

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