Theatre of dreams

Now that the showy blooms of summer are all but over, I've been thinking about what to do to introduce some pretty spots of colour into the small courtyard gardens here at Le Petit Manoir.

Whilst doing a bit of pinterest surfing, I've discovered the plant theatre! This seems just perfect for my place, as we have no soil (house is built on a granite outcrop) and much of what I'm able to grow is in containers or raised beds. Plant theatres are also well suited to autumn and winter planting, and spring bulbs, so it is possible to create an attractive display with a splash of colour even in the darkest dreariest months.

For those of you who have never heard of a plant theatre, it's simply a shelving unit, usually house-shaped like a child's drawing, and plants are arranged on the shelves in little individual terracotta pots providing a pleasing display. Most often used in Victorian times for showy Auriculas, the idea has evolved and is now popular for a variety of plants which suit the sheltered environment of the shelf, such as winter pansies and violas. There's a fantastic 'how-to' piece on gardenista's web page,, on making the theatre on the left above, and at several National Trust properties such as Grey's Court, you can pick up a leaflet on creating your own theatre like the one on the right in the picture above.

I'm using original antique terracotta miniature pots for my theatre project, and I'm lucky enough to have a ready supply of these at my back yard brocante. I can post these out to you if you would like to make your own display, price is just £25 for six, posted within Europe (including UK) Message me on facebook @ciderbarnbrocante if you'd like to know more, or to order your pots.

Terracotta is the best medium for planting up your theatres, providing a balanced environment for your little plants. Galvanised planters can be used for larger displays. you'll need to ensure good drainage though with holes drilled in the base and plenty of grit in the soil mix, and a gravel layer.

And if you are not so handy with a hammer and saw, you can simply use a stepladder, window sill, or metal racking. Perfect for those of you who are spatially challenged, a balcony, doorstep or patio can be dressed with a simple row of pots for instant impact.

Or buy a charity shop shelf unit, paint it up and hang it on an outside wall. Use your imagination a little, you don't have to stick to flowering plants either. Succulents and strawberry plants are two alternative ideas. As the concept of a plant theatre has become wider, to encompass any grouping of pots creating a pleasing stage, you don't even need to use a housing at all, although for winter plants such as Auriculas and violas the sheltering from seasonal wind and rain is more necessary.

picture credit pinterest

Once Winter has passed and we've turned the corner into Spring, your theatre can be re-planted with deliciously bright flowering bulbs such as miniature daffodil 'tete-a-tete', muscari, iris and mini tulip varieties. There are some lovely ideas on the frustrated gardener's blog,

Then, of course, we turn full circle and reach the abundance of Summer flowering, but there's no need to abandon your theatre, as the format really lends itself to lavenders and geraniums for quite stunning arrangements.

Don't forget to show us your plant theatre pictures. #Unfrenchsheryl

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