During his numerous visits to the Barakura English Garden in Japan, plant expert, blogger and podcaster Michael Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek, came across an imaginative style of container planting, which he hadn’t seen elsewhere on his travels.

“Barakura has become the art form for horticulture, and a way of flower arranging with plants, by breaking the rules a little bit,” says Perry, who offers advice on his website mrplantgeek.com and co-hosts The Plant Based Podcast with fellow gardening enthusiast Ellen Mary.


What is Barakura-style planting?

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“It’s like flower arranging with living plants, but you create an instant effect through using a range of different plants which are planted close together, so the container looks good straight away,” he explains.

He has witnessed experts planting up containers the Barakura way on the five or six times he has been to the garden in Japan.

You can combine plants from many different groups – shrubs, perennials, grasses and more – and the idea is to have an instant wow factor by cramming them in and making the most of foliage, rather than just focusing on flowers.

What plants are suitable for a Barakura-style container?

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“Gardeners are very shy to plant anything in a container that isn’t an annual or a patio plant. It’s seldom you would see lupins or delphiniums in pots. People aren’t that inventive.

“Sure, shrubs become a bit more difficult in a pot, but you might use a shrub with some patio plants. It’s not going to be in there for years and you would need to reorganise it from time to time, but with Barakura style, you can do that.

“Something that can be used a lot in the autumn is the obedient plant Physostegia virginiana, which is really cool. In Japan, a lot of these plants are treated with a dwarfing agent to keep them small, but in the UK we don’t tend to do that with perennials, which you generally buy bigger. The obedient plant gives you the blooms at its young stage.

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“They also use celosia (cock’s comb), which is often an impulse purchase here. For the dressing, you could have rock plants, such as sedum with very delicate, detailed foliage on them.”

Other combinations might include dahlias or chrysanthemums with cosmos, ornamental grasses and ferns, whose foliage can knit the container planting together.

How long does Barakura-style container planting last?

“The longevity is deceptively good. You’d assume because you are planting so closely that the plants are going to compete and aren’t going to last that long, but I’ve been amazed at the longevity of the pots.”

Barakura-style pots can last for months (Michael Perry/PA)
Barakura-style pots can last for months (Michael Perry/PA)

The pots can actually last for months, he says, although in some cases, you may have to swap plants which are past their best for healthier replacements.

“You can plant in pockets, and lift plants easily to replace them with other ones. You could even drop in plants in their pots – then it really would be flower arranging with real plants. If people are worried the roots will grow into each other, it could be done that way.

“Barakura-style containers may cost a little bit more, but it’s still possible to plant like that if you’ve grown from cuttings, or find good value plants.”

How could you give the Barakura treatment to autumn pots?

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“Don’t just go for plants in the autumn-planting section of your garden centre. Look in the perennial section. There may be perennials which look good now for their foliage, such as hardy geraniums, or shrubs – such as young pittosporum or photinia, or you may want to go to the conifer section and have a mini conifer as your centrepiece.

“People need to understand that you won’t be planting this up for years to come, but rather for months to come. You’ll be breaking it down and re-assembling it, so that conifer is planted on into the garden, or you maybe replant around the conifer.”

Heathers and pansies could provide the colour to your Barakura-style pot, or later-blooming perennials, such as Japanese anemones and rudbeckia, he suggests.

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You may be too late to blend indoor plants with outdoor favourites, but in the summer, you could make up some pots combining houseplants – such as spider plants and monstera – with outdoor plants.

“When you’re in the garden centre, bring all those plants together and have a look at how they combine. Make sure you have enough to fill gaps.

“Some of the students in Japan will roll the plant to make the root block more of an oblong shape, so it will fit differently in the container. You can absolutely do that. It means you could slide a plant into a gap or make it a crescent shape. It works with plants with multiple stems, like grasses.”

What about compost?

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“Always invest in a good quality compost and pick on the types which have moisture-retentive properties and nutrients built in, but I’d also advise adding some slow-release fertiliser and moisture-retaining crystals.

“The Barakura-style container is going to be more competitive, because the plants are packed in, but if you have a good soil, you have a great chance of success.

“You need to keep watering – the rainfall won’t be enough. Have a saucer below, which will help.”

Best-selling outdoor plant pots

Need plant pots to try out some Barakura gardening? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!

SaleBestseller No. 1
Hum Flowerpots, set of 3 blue plastic Maroc Tile, colourful planters indoor/outdoor pots 22cm x 22cm...
  • Set of 3 plastic pots, height: 22cm, diameter: 22cm, (8.5” x 8.5”)
  • Fade resistant and frost resistant for outdoors or indoors
  • Lightweight, durable plastic. No drainage holes (can be drilled)
Bestseller No. 2
Rustic Style Dark Grey Plastic Half Barrel Cask Planters 51cm Diameter - Set of 2 - Indoor & Outdoor...
  • Our Half Barrel Rustic Cask Barrel Plastic Planter will be an attractive and stylish addition to your home.
  • This lightweight plastic planter has no drainage holes making it ideal for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Great for use in any room of your home and will also compliment your garden, terrace, patio or conservatory decor.
Bestseller No. 3
LA JOLIE MUSE Flower Pots Outdoor Garden Planters, Indoor Plant Pots with Drainage Holes, Plastic,...
  • Lightweight while Sturdy - Made from durable recyclable plastic and natural stone powders.
  • Pragmatic Flower Pot - 4 built-in drainage holes create a healthy living environment for your plants. Ferns, pothos and spider plants will thrive in these breathable planters (Plants and plugs not...
  • Unique Design in Two Sizes - Engage a modern minimalist style to match home decors and to display your plants. Adorn your outdoor and indoor areas: porch, patio, deck, balcony, living room, study...
Bestseller No. 4
La Jolíe Muse Large Hanging Planters for Outdoor Indoor Plants, Black Hanging Flower Pots with...
  • OUTDOOR AND WEATHER RESISTANT - Allow you to enjoy these hanging planter for outdoor plants in all types of weather. Built to withstand intense sun and harsh winter temperatures, they are free from...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT MATERIALS AND ADJUSTABLE HANGER - Made from durable recyclable plastic and natural stone powder, these planters are light enough to hang anywhere outdoors. Feel free to adjust the height...
  • CONTEMPORARY INDUSTRIAL STYLE - With a classic sense of style, the hanging sphere planter features a contemporary industrial look for a delightful play of light and a natural splash of fun. Includes a...
Bestseller No. 5
2 x 31cm Large Round Plastic Serenity Garden Plant Pot Flower Pot Planter Outdoor Green With White...
  • The 12" Serenity Stout Planter is a proven winner with an etched floral design around the entire planter
  • These Serenity Planter boasts an etched floral design and hand painted white wash which makes the contrasting colours pop
  • The eye-catching design comes With Hand Crafted Finishing and Suitable For Outdoor Uses

Last update on 2021-09-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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