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An Easier Alternative - A Container Garden

Often, a garden with lawns to care for, beds to dig over and weeding to sort out can be too high

maintenance in Bulgaria; especially for a holiday home. By keeping your garden contained in pots, not only are your plants and flowers portable, but you can quickly add a riot of colours and aromas to your property. When you start your container garden you may choose a prevailing theme, for example, terracotta tubs, or have mix and match with varying sizes and materials, such as plaster, metal, stone, clay or glass.

Alternatively, steer away from the standard decorative pots, and become creative; a broken porcelain bowl, an old toy truck, a boot or an old wheel barrow; all serve for interesting containers for plants, and make use of otherwise unwanted items.Quest Bulgaria has quoted approximate prices but remember,although more time consuming it is easy to save cuttings and dry seeds from plants and flowers each year to keep costs low. Many Bulgarians recycle seeds from year to year in this way,so in creating a colourful display in their gardens with minimul expense.

More typical containers include troughs, which look lovely against a window ledge or a straight wall, and are suitable for planting small flowers or shrubs, including herbaceous plants. Trellises are a must if you want to include climbing plants, such as clematis, and you can buy these, plastic or wooden from various garden stores.

There is a wealth of flora that you can plant in containers, but bear in mind soil in containers can't draw the natural nutrients from the ground and you will need to buy a good, combination compost to grow your plants in. A bag of all-purpose compost from, which comes in a 50 L bag, costs around 30 leva. Container plants need watering more frequently than bedded gardens. Metro stocks an automatic watering system by Gardena for around 100 leva, which detects dryness with a sensor and applies water when needed. Other alternatives are gel or chemical based water containers, which hold liquid and distribute it gradually.

Annuals and perennials are obvious choices. Annuals are very easy to grow and accepting of varied climates, petunias and pansies come in a variety of colours and are very robust. Geraniums, one of the most popular perennials, last for most of the year and so add a consistent cheery look to a container, but avoid direct sunlight as leaves burn. Marigolds also give a bright splash of colour to pots and are particularly well suited to the intense heat of the summers in Bulgaria.

Bulbs are also a very popular choice, due to their reusability and diversity. A mixed colour bag of dahlia bulbs for 14.99 leva, and a bumper bag of 50 gladioli for 13.99 leva. Dahlia last for the whole summer, and make fantastic cut flowers too, so you can bring the colour inside your home. Another, more exotic addition is the pre-potted, partially grown lily-of-the-valley plant for 10.99 leva. This striking plant can be a little boisterous and tends to spread, so it's better to keep it in its own pot. It also gives off a wonderful scent from its spring-time flowers.

Hanging baskets against a whitewashed wall leave a striking impression during a long, hot summertime. A readymade begonia hanging basket with three varieties can be purchased for 25 leva, and these particular plants will last until October with proper care. Examples of pretty, non-floral additions include, ivy, which looks beautiful cascading from the basket, and mosses.

Arranging your plants according to colours will ensure you get an alluring effect to your container garden. The key to arranging plants to compliment and not clash is to sort them into cool and warm colours. Cool colours include green and blue tones, and warm colours include yellows and reds. Visually, cool colours tend to retreat, meaning they are ideal for up-close viewing, whereas warm colours are fantastic for dramatic displays as they have a tendency to stand out more, meaning you can place them further away from the eye's view without them losing effect. These warm colours do, however, become a focal point for the eye, because they tend to enclose spaces. As cool colours do the opposite, they can make a small garden or patio area seem more spacious.

In the sometimes stiflingly hot Bulgarian summers, you can make a patio seem more inviting by combining cool pastels, violets, greens and blues. Using warmer coloured annuals will make it seem even hotter, which would be a desirable effect when the evenings start to become cooler in September and October. The best way to experiment with colour in order to get the best combination to suit your garden is to plant colours by pots, instead of mixing colours within pots.

To break up bright colours, and also add all-year-round foliage to your containers, plant a mixture of shrubs and small trees. A variety of ferns or small shrubs such as sage, heather or rockrose can be bought from garden centres, starting from as little as 4 leva, climbing in price depending on size and variety. Many of these shrubs are scented, or herb varieties, which make for an extremely attractive addition to a spring garden. At this time of year, lavender can be grown, and the purple hues as well as the sweet scent add a relaxed atmosphere to the area.

Edible additions to your container display further compliment the diversity of your plant collection, and in Bulgaria, a country which has high capabilities in sustaining a variety of berries and fruit, there are many possibilities. Mr Bricolage sells ready-to-go strawberry pots, or just-add water variety herb pots starting from 6.99 leva. You can also purchase small lemon, kiwi or apple trees already in their pots from around 9.99 leva. The colours of the fruits, as well as the endearing possibility of plucking a succulent strawberry to eat as and when you wish will take your container garden to the next level. You can always mix up your pots to include fruits, flowers, herbs, shrubs and even vegetables like garlic and lettuce, as they all grow well together and provide an eclectic combination.

Once you have the plants taken care of, you can fill up extra spaces or add more texture with non-living additions, such as shells, gravel or bark chippings. Decorative colour mulch, or wood chippings, is available in various colours, including tan, brown and beige from Mr. Bricolage, in a 70 L bag for 30 leva. Other ornamental extras to add character could be coloured glass bottles, small water features or mist makers, or ornaments, available at all garden and DIY stores.

If you want the patio or terrace of your Bulgarian home to be more like the Chelsea Flower Show, then a container garden is the ideal solution for you. You can have a low maintenance collection with just a few pots, or keep yourself endlessly occupied by experimenting with texture and colour in a variety of different containers. Either way, the outside area of your house in the sun will be full of character, charm and be a superb place to sit back on some strategically placed garden furniture with a glass of the best Bulgarian wine to enjoy the sunshine.