Alpine Planter

Low-growing succulents and other alpines are perfect for displaying in a box planter. This miniature alpine

landscape would make a stunning centerpiece for an

outdoor table and should be admired at eye level.

TIME IT RIGHT Early spring is the best time to plant. You can also do this in summer, but it will require more watering. The plants will offer color and interest all year round.


Place a layer of gravel over the base of the box planter for drainage. Succulents need good drainage and do not like to be sitting in water, which will cause their roots to rot. Add a layer of gritty potting mix with a little general-purpose fertilizer added, filling to halfway up the container.

— Project Steps


Lay out all your plants and roughly position them so you have a feel for how everything will look. Place taller plants at the back and lower, spreading ones at the front. Then take them out of their pots, gently teasing out any compacted roots, and start to plant up. Top off with a layer of soil mix.

Create a miniature alpine landscape for your planter by usiny broken terra-cotta pot rims or pieces of slate to simulate rock strata in a natural environment

TOOLS & equipment

vintage metal containers in a range of sizes

electric drill & metal drill bits crocks or gravel multipurpose potting mix horticultural grit (for gooseberries) trowel

slow-release fertilizer granules wooden stakes & ties (optional) watering can

gravel or well-rotted manure, for mulch

netting, bamboo poles, & toppers


apple ‘James Grieve’, grown as a vertical cordon black currant ‘Consort’ blueberry ‘Bluecrop’ fig ‘Brown Turkey’, grown as a half standard tree golden marjoram gooseberry ‘Hinnomaki Red’, grown as a half standard shrub sage ‘Tricolor’ strawberry ‘Eversweet’


Drill several drainage holes into the bottom of your container, if it does not have them already.


Place a layer of crocks (pieces of broken terra-cotta pots), gravel, or small pebbles in the base of the container, which will prevent the drainage holes from getting clogged up and ensure that air can circulate around the plant’s roots.

«-Project Steps


Gooseberry bushes, shown being planted here, do not like to be waterlogged and will benefit from a relatively free-draining soil made of 2 parts potting mix to 1 part grit. Mix with a trowel before adding to the container. You can also mix some slow-release fertilizer granules into the mix.


Add the potting mix to the container, building up a base layer of soil to the correct height so that the top of the root ball will be 1M-1%in (3-4cm) below the rim of the pot. Remove the bush from its container and tease out the roots, especially if it has become pot – bound and the roots have spiraled.


Position the plant in the container and fill in around it with your soil mix, keeping the bush level and centered as you do so. Add a stake to support a standard plant and tie it in if needed. Be sure to water the bush thoroughly after planting.


Add a 1Min (3cm) layer of decorative gravel or another kind of mulch, such as well-rotted manure, which will help to retain moisture in the container.

-Care Advice

‘Where to site Fruit trees and bushes prefer growing in direct sun in a sheltered site. Turn pots regularly so that growth is balanced and the fruit ripens evenly. Some fruit may need their blooms protected from early frost, so cover with garden fabric or similar. Containers may need extra frost protection with bubble wrap in winter.

‘Watering Water regularly from spring to mid-fall, reducing to minimal levels in winter. Containers may need watering twice a day in summer. Water when the surface of the potting mix is dry and use a watering can with a long spout or hose to get water directly into the soil mix. Do not overwater and do not let the potting medium dry out completely. Place a container under the pot to catch excess water.

Feeding Add diluted liquid fertilizer to the water monthly from spring to fall. Replace general feed with liquid tomato fertilizer weekly from mid-spring until late summer to encourage formation of fruit, then change back to general-purpose fertilizer from late summer to early fall and from early to mid­spring. Do not feed when plants are dormant in late fall and winter. Alternatively, you can add a controlled-release fertilizer tablet to the potting mix in early spring, although additional tomato feed is also beneficial.

General Care Keep the pots free of weeds and add an annual mulch in early spring of well-rotted manure, leaf mold, or garden compost after watering containers thoroughly. Remove any dead, diseased, or dying foliage during the growing season. Prune mostly when plants are dormant and repot larger specimens every 2-3 years.

An elegant and space-saving method of growing fruit trees is to train them into an espalier (right). Formed around a single verticle stem, pairs of lateral shoots are pruned and trained along poles at 45° to the main stem in the first year, and then at right angles in the second year, when a second tier is added. Several tiers can be formed this way, growing flat against a wall to make the most of your small spaces.

Specific Fruit Advice

Black currants Prune from leaf drop until winter, removing to ground level all weak, damaged, or diseased growth and a third of older growth to thin the bush and promote good air circulation.

Blueberries Use acidic potting mix because blueberries prefer acidic soil. Keep the mix moist, and water with rainwater. Use fertilizer for acid – loving plants. Prune like black currants. Move to a sheltered, less frosty place in winter.

Figs Prune in spring and regularly pinch off the growing point of the sideshoots to encourage fruit. Bring the pot into a frost-free place for winter, or wrap in plastic bubble wrap and garden fabric, then place in a sheltered place.

Gooseberries Prune in summer by cutting back new growth to five leaves, then remove congested branches in winter to create better air circulation.

Strawberries Place containers off the ground for better air circulation. Pot runners in late summer.

Apples Choose plants grown on dwarf rootstock: M27 is the most popular variety. Single, slender cordons have fruit along the length of a vertical stem and are perfect for smaller spaces and containers, and only require light pruning each year in summer.

**ЛШ Fruit Gallery

Fruit trees in containers con be moved around so that the plant gets the best site and sunniest exposure. Cordons, espaliers, and fan-trained fruit trees are particularly good for smaller spaces; they give a high crop yield and are very attractive.

TOOLS & equipment

safety equipment: surgical or rubber gloves and face mask— these are essential because cement can cause burns 2 metal or plastic bowls that will comfortably fit inside each other to give a reasonable rim width

concrete mix of white cement, silver sand, Portland or marble dust, and water; see steps 1 and 2 for calculating quantities metric scales for weighing large plastic bucket measuring cup dishwashing liquid (optional) cork stoppers, cut to the correct depth for the base of your bowl PVA glue

cooking oil & brush additional sand or weights, to hold the top mold in place

sheet of plastic wrap, large enough to enclose the mold

metal file and/or sandpaper in various grades


Calluna vulgaris ‘Elegantissima’


Use a pair of bowls, one fitting inside the other. Use plastic or metal mixing bowls, ice cream tubs, other food containers, etc.; note that bowls with an undercut or fluting in the wrong direction may be difficult to remove from the cast concrete. Carry out a water displacement test to calculate the quantity of dry mix: fill the outer mold with water, place the inner mold on top and press down gently, displacing water till the rims are level. Measure the volume remaining in milliliters; the total weight in grams of dry mix will be double that figure.

чЛ—Project Steps

2 Concrete is a mix of cement, sand, and water added together in different quantities. A recommended ratio of cement to sand is 1:3. For a finer finish, stone dust can be combined with the sand at a 1:1 ratio. For the bowls we used, the volume of displaced water came to 2 liters, giving a total weight of 4kg dry ingredients, and because we used stone dust this broke down as 1kg cement, 1.5kg stone dust, and 1.5kg sand.


Wearing gloves and a face mask to protect against the caustic cement, measure out the dry ingredients and mix them together in a large plastic bucket until evenly combined.


If you like, add of squirt of dishwashing liquid, which will act as a plasticizer to make the concrete more malleable. Mix until there are no streaks of dry ingredients and the concrete forms firm, doughlike clumps.


Glue a cork stopper in the center of the larger mold; this will create a drainage hole. Oil the bowl and cork to aid removal. Line the mold with concrete, pressing down with your knuckles and spreading it up the sides to start to create the bowl shape. Build up evenly until level with the top of the cork.


Oil the base (and lip, if it has one) of the inner mold and position in the center.

Fill in between the molds until the concrete is level with the top. You may need to keep pressing down on the inner mold to ensure it sits on the cork, especially if the concrete starts to become more liquid.

8 Add sand or weights to hold down the inner mold and gently tap the sides of the outer mold to level the surface and release air bubbles. Place on a flat surface, wrap loosely in plastic, and keep out of direct sunlight so it does not harden too quickly. Leave for 24-48 hours. Remove the inner bowl and cork, then turn upside down to remove the outer bowl. Pouring boiling water on metallic molds will help to release them.


Smooth any sharp edges with a metal file and finish off the surface with sandpaper, working from rough to fine grades of paper, as desired.

Make’it-yourself Concrete Planters

Updated: October 10, 2015 — 9:31 am