Cheap Frontage Upgrade

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a detached house in possession of a long frontage, must be in want of clematis. Or so the line goes. Many people know my track record with clematis doesn’t make for good reading, but I shan’t stop trying and so I jumped at the chance to put into action a plan involving clematis, which had been brewing in my mind for some time.

It all starts last autumn, we were on yet another guilt-filled trip to the garden centre, which was undergoing a change of owner at the time. The ensuing disruption had many plants at greatly reduced prices. Unfortunately, with a pending house move and an already crammed garden, I could only “look but not touch” (always a painful experience). That is until I came across a stand of dead sticks in pots posing as clematis, with their labels marked:

£16.99 reduced to £1

Yes please! I’ll have six.

They were all varieties of patio clematis, suitable for pots and since then they’ve been waiting in the wings until a recent passing mention of the price of garden trugs in the local supermarket caught my attention:

£6.00 reduced to £3

Yes please! I’ll have six.

With a drill, soil sieve, polystyrene packaging, bamboo and a scabbed piece of porous landscape fabric, I was all set to put my plan into action.

Step 1: use the largest drill bit to put drainage holes in the bottom of the trugs.

Step 2: break up the polystyrene packaging and put a layer in the bottom in place of stones or crocks. When filled the trugs will be heavy enough without stones.

WP_20140401_12_15_40_ProStep 3: cut the porous landscape fabric to fit over the layer of polystyrene to help retain the soil but allow water to drain through.

Step 4: go to the bottom of the garden, underneath the trees where years of autumn leaves have created a rich leaf mould compost just laying there on the ground, waiting to be used. Fill each trug. Mix in bonemeal, general purpose fertiliser and potash for an extra boost if desired.

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Step 5: Plant one ludicrously cheap clematis into each half-price trug filled with free compost. Feel smug while doing so.

Step 6: Find the nearest clump of overgrown bamboo and cut five canes 6′ to 8′ long for each trug. Oh look! There appears to be a suitably sized stand of bamboo available at the bottom of the garden. How convenient.

WP_20140416_12_59_17_ProStep 7: Use the canes to make a wigwam for the clematis to clamber up and top-dress each trug with sieved topsoil inexplicably available in another discard pile in the garden.

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Step 8: Place all six trugs along the front of the house and then water thoroughly (otherwise you’ll never manage to lift them into position).

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Sit back and admire a very cheap yet arresting upgrade to the frontage of the house. Don’t tell the neighbours how cut-price and “Blue Peter” the whole operation was.

The front of the house receives a great deal of sunshine. These potted clematis will be in full sun for most of the day. It is said that clematis prefer shade at the bottom to keep their roots cool but black trugs in full sun are not ideal and will gradually heat up. This can be prevented by growing hanging basket plants such as trailing fuchsias and lobelias that will cascade over the top and sides and stop the soil from heating as much.

This is probably something I will do a later on, right now I’d say the clematis are lucky to get the treatment they’ve had and can deal with slightly warmer roots or deal with the compost heap, it’s their choice.

8 Comments


  1. Wonderful! I love how you grabbed those clematis and figured out a way to use them. They will be beautiful and if you decide you don’t want them in the trugs anymore, they’ll be easy enough to relocate. Hooray for you! 🙂

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    1. Hi Tammy, at those sorts of reduced prices I couldn’t resist. At £1 each, I wouldn’t have cared if they really were dead sticks. I’m going to need many more of these kinds of bargains if I’m to fill the garden without going bankrupt. This will be their first season planted up on location so it’s still early days. Hopefully they’ll perform well and I’ll be able to get cuttings of some of them perhaps.

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  2. Impossible to not take advantage of such a bargain, Clematis at one pound!! Hope they do well as Clematis like being planted deeply, but as casa m says, they will be easy to relocate if necessary.

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    1. Hi Alistair, I know, at their original price of £16.99 I wouldn’t have looked twice but at £1 it would have been criminal to leave them behind! These clematis are patio/pot clematis so hopefully won’t mind being in the trugs, especially as the trugs are much larger than a typical patio pot, it also meant I was able to bury them a few inches below a layer of top dressing.

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  3. So excited to see your bargain beauties tucked into their new (or temporary) homes. I will look forward to seeing how they progress. At one pound you had to give it a go!

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    1. Hi Lynn, I hope they do well. If they survive they may take a few years to really get going and may become a recurring feature of the front garden. I hope to get lots of cuttings off them too to plant in other areas.

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  4. Good work! You are a man after my own heart. And remember, you couldn’t afford not to buy those clematis!

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    1. Hi Jason, I know, it would have been criminal to leave them behind! I wish I came across these kinds of bargains more often. I am quite good with seeds and propagation so get lots cheap plants that way I guess.

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