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Toby Buckland’s top tips for creating beautiful planters

Toby Buckland’s top tips for creating beautiful planters

Amberol was fortunate to have TV gardening presenter and expert Toby Buckland at the company’s recent 50th birthday celebration. Toby gave a very useful talk on planting up containers using one of Amberol’s planters from their planterware range. Here’s a summary of his advice and some of his top tips.

Toby believes that gardeners are optimists by nature – placing something in the soil and hoping that it will grow into something beautiful or useful. And ultimately, making our environment a better place for all.

When planning out a season’s planting, Toby advised considering how to best use colour and to give some thought to creating planting schemes rather than just forging ahead and planting without a proper plan in place. He also suggested that planting schemes should have an element of repetition and that ideally planters should complement their surroundings and landscape e.g. by using the same one or two colours and/or plants as in surrounding flower beds to create continuity.

Where do you start when planting up?

Moving onto the planters themselves; Toby explained how any planting should start at the centre of the container and work outwards from there. He suggested using a spiky plant or a selection of grasses at the planter’s centre. Apart from creating a great centrepiece, one of the other advantages of grasses is that they self-seed.

Using colour wisely

He also talked about limiting colours. Although it can be tempting to fill a planter with a myriad of colours, Toby believes that sometimes less is more. However, he stressed the importance of aiming for variety as too much uniformity bores the eyes. That’s why horticulturalists often plant in odd numbers such as in 3s, 5s, 7s or 9s – to avoid too much regularity.

Making clever use of foliage

Flowers may be beautiful, but they can also be expensive to plant. One way that horticulturalists make their budgets stretch further is through the imaginative use of foliage. In Toby’s opinion foliage is a key component of any planter and used thoughtfully with colour can make a great impact. As he pointed out, foliage makes flowers go further and lasts all year-round unlike flowers, saying: “Flowers come and go but leaves always look good”.

Toby pointed out that dark leaved plants can cope better with and will darken in the sunshine, while lighter leaves are less tolerant of sunlight. Dark leaved plants can also create a dramatic frame for a floral display.

Suggestions for a good colour combination included using purple leaves which come to life with silver plants such as the silver moss plant. This can be planted in October and will last into the next year and is also drought resistant, making it a great choice.

Toby also talked about the importance of having an attractive centrepiece in a planter and that trailers and bushy plants can help create interesting visual variety. He also suggested including plants that can grow taller and act as ‘hooks’ for other plants such as fuchsias to hang from to create visual appeal and variety.

Some favourite plants for containers

Another plant that Toby introduced into his demonstration container was the cyclamen. Toby told the audience that when they set seeds, cyclamen flowers roll back down to the ground and their seeds are coated in sugary substance to attract ants. The ants then spread the seeds, so cyclamen plants are often found around the base of trees where ants favour the soil. Miracle cyclamen can flower right through the winter.

Toby also talked about the importance of edibles and how he liked to see edible plants such as strawberries or herbs in amongst floral planters. He suggested that parsley, thyme and sage are all good candidates, explaining that herbs have volatile oils that help keep pests away.

Other plants mentioned included Creeping Jenny as a good all year-round plant also offering good ground cover and ivy which captures pollutants so is a great choice for roadsides and urban areas as well as being a good filler plant. Toby also talked about bulb planting as the last plant to be placed in a container and explained that they should be planted deeper than many instructions suggest to prevent them being dug up and eaten by animals such as squirrels.

Acknowledging 50 years

Finally, paying tribute to Amberol’s 50 years in business, Toby concluded by saying that Amberol products “Allow In Bloomers to be ambitious and to plant lots of plants” and acknowledged how the company has had a positive impact on so many organisations over five successful decades.

If you would like to find out more about any of Amberol’s self-watering planters, litter bins, planterware or benches and picnic tables, call 01773 830 930 or email

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