Apart from the plants themselves, the biggest expense so far has been the pots and the supports, but I considered this a one-off cost and was happy to indulge myself by purchasing the best I could find and afford. As it turned out, the best pots were found on Ebay sold buy Oakland Gardens in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. I decided that heavy duty 20 litre rigid black plastic pots were the most suitable and found them for £3.50 each with free postage and packing. As it turned out, the packaging didn’t account for the way they would be thrown about and damaged by the courier but, all credit to Oakland Gardens, they agreed to replace the broken ones immediately.
They must have been thrown about quite violently because these Aeroplas pots are very well made and unlikely to be damaged simply by a bit of rough handling. Of course, the idea was always to sink them up to their rim in raised beds so they had to be able to withstand the sideways pressure without buckling and be strong enough not to split, should the Tradescantias become pot bound and apply pressure from the inside as Agapanthus do.
So why 20 litres? Why not 10 litres or 35 litres? Well, it was partly down to cost and space, but as I would be splitting them regularly, at least every other year, it seemed to make sense not to go too big. Tradescantias are clumpers, producing more and more thick fleshy roots every year and gradually spreading sideways. I felt I had to give them plenty of growing room and enough growing media to satisfy their water and nutrient requirements, but also contain them and keep their roots in one place and under control.
As you can see from the picture of ‘Purewell Giant’ at the top of this page, some of the Tradescantias get quite tall, but without the company of other neighbouring plants they also tend to droop and fall over, often snapping their stems in the process. Plant supports are essential for the taller varieties and I have chosen these simple ‘Grow Through’ 6mm untreated mild steel ones from Plant Supports of Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire. They are 37cm diameter which is wide enough to span the 20 litre pots, and 57cm high on four sturdy legs pushed into the ground which can be raised as the plant grows taller. I purchased 10 for £63.77 including VAT & delivery. That may sound expensive but they will last a lifetime. They are also much more purposeful and attractive than sticks and string!
And, in case anyone is wondering about the mulch, it is chopped up mineralised straw called Strulch. It prevents weeds germinating, keeps the soil or compost moist by reducing dehydration, discourages slugs and snails who don’t like slithering on it, and dresses the soil surface attractively. Lasts for about 2 years, gets absorbed by soil and provides organic content, doesn’t blow about (surprisingly!) and is recommended by the RHS and all good gardens.