It’s still chilly outside... not even a hint of apple-blossom (which always, for me, heralds April in style). But a delayed spring holds the promise of glory, because it means that we may well get wonderful combinations, like blossom AND daffodils all at once. Anyway there’s no reason not to start gently playing with a few things outside, and pots are perfect for this, as they are small, and separate from the garden, and somehow tinkering with a pot does not require any firm commitment to the rest of a space (which can feel overwhelming, particularly at the beginning of the season).

For instant loveliness

Look no further than what’s on the shelves at your local garden centre right now. Because of the weather, that probably means a wonderful array of primroses, cowslips, tulips, daffodils and muscari. Snap them up and put them in large shallow containers, adding the odd hardy fern, and you have instant Spring beauty that you can plant out in your garden proper (if you have one) when they finally go over.

For cheery, smiling faces

It’s got to be pansies (or viola if you want to be proper about it). Armies of beauteous colours and textures, from fruity, frilly bright yellows, to sultry bruised blues are hitting the shelves right now. Again, for these, I like to use large shallow terracotta bowls, and I always stick to one colour, but if you’re short on space, then have a go at creating a cascade of them in stacked pots (for how-to, see my book Sweet Peas for Summer). Treat them well and these will last you well into the summer, particularly if you dead-head (remove spent flowers) regularly.

For fragrant feel-appeal

Go and gather some small pots of herbs. Thyme is a real winner, and garden centres are full of masses of different varieties, from trailing to variegated. I like to plant up a mish-mash of different terracotta pots with these lovely hummocks of scent and mass them together in one corner. You can do the same with different varieties of mint – it looks fabulous and improves your cooking no end. For Thyme and mint I use just John Innes no 2 compost as these are long-term plantings.

Oh, and one last thing; make sure your containers are as large as possible, and have saucers to catch excess water – this makes watering much less of a chore.


Laetitia is author of two books: ‘The Virgin Gardener’, and ‘Sweet Peas for Summer: How to create a garden in a year’.

She blogs at, tweets @laetitiamaklouf and face-books at Laetitia Maklouf, where you can seek her out and ask her absolutely anything you want.

Photos: Jill Mead