The best edible container plants for summer gardens

This summer, let your imagination run wild and then show off the results in a series of spectacular containers packed with plants that will be good enough to eat.
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© Gap Photos/Friedrich Strauss
Citrus and solanum trees make great patio plants and can be overwintered under glass
The best summer containers have nothing to do with green fingers and everything to do with creativity. You don't need horticultural expertise: you just need an eye for a great combo of colour, shape and texture.

The potted gardening lesson is simply to crock the pot, use water-retaining compost, add a mulch of grit or gravel and prepare to water, feed and dead-head regularly.

Whatever you choose to plant, try something different. If you've never looked beyond bedding to fill your containers, prepare to fall in love with a patio clematis, the outsize flowers garlanding a tripod. If you've always been sniffy about hanging baskets, plant a trio of strawberry plants in a metal colander, add some variegated pineapple mint at the centre, and suspend it by a chain; you'll be converted.

And if you have a sheltered, sunny spot on patio or terrace, go to the houseplant section of the garden centre and bag a bougainvillea for instant Mediterranean sparkle, even on a dull day.

If you're short on space, make a living wall tapestry. No need to install a costly grid system — just pin up a black fabric wall planter with individual pockets that each hold compost and a plant. As the season progresses, the black fabric disappears behind a wall of plants. Try alternating light and dark blue lobelias with green and burgundy lollo lettuces for an effective checkerboard effect.

© Gap Photos/Friedrich Strauss
Lettuce leaves, rocket and edible violas sprout from a strawberry pot
A fashionable zinc tub, holes drilled through its base, can house an entire herb garden, provided you keep to the culinary favourites. Oregano, rosemary, narrow-leaved sage and thymes, both creeping and bushy, will make surprisingly decorative displays, and when they flower, will attract bees, butterflies and all the beneficial insects in the neighbourhood.

Keep mint — several varieties — in another same-size tub, but in light shade; look for ornamental and deliciously fragrant gingermint, grapefruit mint, variegated pineapple as well as grass-green Moroccan mint, best for tisanes. Mix up edibles with ornamentals and you have the best of both worlds — plus there's always some action.

Surround a yellow chilli pepper plant with a ruffle of scarlet nasturtiums; border a pretty pink bush fuchsia with a becoming frill of cut-and-comeagain salad leaves. Give an aubergine plant centre stage in a large tub and show off the dusky mauve stems, foliage and flowers with a wide collar of purple verbena sprays at its base.

A standard gooseberry — buy a red-fruited variety such as Redeva that you can pick straight from the bush — makes a great statement when the canopy is echoed with a mass of burnt orange calibrachoa around its stem.

Metal trough
© Gap Photos/Friedrich Strauss
A shiny metal trough is the ideal partner for shasta daisies and striped bamboo
There is no gardening law that says tomatoes need to be grown solo. Train a cordon tomato, such as Gardener's Delight, up a pole in a galvanised bucket and make it a show-stopper by planting pink and scarlet trailing geraniums around its base.

Easy-care tumbling tomatoes are at their best in a hanging basket or window box, mixed with green and purple basils and gold French marigolds, their classic companion plant; full sunshine is required. Add tumbling tomatoes to chilli pepper and coriander plants so that, minus the marigolds, you're all set to salsa.

Cocktail cucumbers or gherkins — buy them as young plants at the garden centre — look appealing with their stems trained over an obelisk or Ucane, so that the pretty yellow flowers and small dangling fruits are shown to advantage. Push three fat seeds of blue borage into the compost and, in a matter of weeks, you can be enjoying Pimms on the terrace, with garnishes from your garden.

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