A Potting Place

I’ve been quietly tinkering away on an important area of my garden. It’s the area where I do all of my seed sowing, prepare cuttings, prick out and pot on seedling, plant up pots and hanging baskets, nurse ailing plants, and store pots of spring bulbs and plants that I’m not ready to plant out. Every garden needs a potting place. It’s a behind-the-scenes area, where all of the hard work and satisfaction of creating new life happens! It’s a place for that most fabulous of gardening pastimes, pottering. Mine gives me almost as much pleasure as the rest of the garden. I like to listen to a gardening podcast or radio drama while I work there, with a cup of coffee that I usually forget to drink before it goes cold.

But I have struggled for years to find the right spot for my potting place. I don’t know how many times I have relocated it since we moved here! You don’t want a messy, working area in full view all the time. I couldn’t afford or justify spending money to erect an attractive screen around it. It couldn’t be in a position where it would be in too much sun, as the seedlings and shade-lovers suffered. Plus, real estate in my small garden is at a premium. Who wants to use prime growing space for a potting area? But it’s grim working in a gloomy spot on a lovely, sunny day.

I finally decided that the answer was to make the space look good, as well as functional. And when my neighbours built their rather swish extension, and we gained a gorgeous brick wall, topped with zinc cladding, I realised this was the place. It’s down the side of the house, just outside our kitchen back door, on the old driveway. It’s so handy having it right outside, as I can easily pop out to check on the baby plants, and do quick jobs like watering or spritzing cuttings, in the midst of our usual domestic madness.

The first thing you need for a potting area is a potting bench. Mine came from a local Facebook group where people post garden items that they are selling or giving away. It’s a perfect, little, home-made potting bench that cost me just £10; a total bargain, and well worth the one hour round trip to Dereham to collect it. I’m so thrilled with it, and no longer covet the ridiculously dear potting benches sold on posh garden supplies websites. (If you’re local, message me, and I’ll be happy to give you the seller’s contact details.)

To one side of the bench, a pale pink, almost white, ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’ climbing rose is happily growing up the north-facing wall. It’s underplanted it with Geranium ‘Rozanne’, which has been flowering away all summer, with a seemingly endless supply of purple blooms.

On the other side, a tall bamboo screens the wheelie bins and compost bin. This bamboo came with us from London in a large, square, zinc container from Habitat. The variety is Phyllostachys vivax f. aureocaulis, which has thick, yellow stems with a green stripe. Despite growing in the pot for the best part of 10 years, it’s surprisingly still going strong. I water it generously, and feed it with liquid seaweed every so often during spring and summer, as there’s no way to scrape off the top surface to redress the compost, it’s so root bound. I’m hoping it will continue to be happy for a while yet, as this bamboo is a runner and would be a vandal in the garden.

A recent addition to the potting area was the auricula theatre, which is on the wall opposite the back door. It’s certainly made the space look prettier, and having the auriculas close to the house makes them easy to look after. I’ll be using my new potting bench to divide them and prepare them for winter next month.

I’ve also put out a few other cheap-and-cheerful bits and bobs that are functional and nice to look at – a galvanised steel watering jug, some South African, multi-coloured, plastic containers, and two, colourful ‘Knodd’ bins from Ikea, which I use for storing for wood ash and vermiculite. And how could I not mention the A M A Z I N G, rainbow, hosepipe holder that I bought at Tiger? Everyone should have one of these! All I need now is a couple of pretty, weather-proof baskets to store essentials in, on the bottom shelf of the potting bench.

These little things in my new potting place make me very happy. It just goes to show that a potting area needn’t be ugly, screened or hidden away in the grim depths of a garden. It can be special. And in a small garden, well, it has to be.

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