Historically stone troughs were used in
England to feed and water livestock. These still exist as
antiques in the British Isles. They are large, expensive
and heavy. Gardeners found that these troughs made beautiful
planters. Today, hypertufa artists are duplicating them in
various sizes and shapes to use as planters. These containers
can be used to create small rockeries in miniature, All
troughs should have a drain hole to provide good drainage to
Plant selection for troughs is critical.
All of the plants in a given container should have the same
cultural requirements in regard to light and moisture.
The plants should be of relatively short stature and
slow growers, You should not use plants that self-seed.
Use plants that prefer a dry or normal moisture environment.
Use plants that have different shapes - mounds, small buns,
rosettes and mats. This adds interest to the planting.
It is often fun to recreate natural plant associations in your
You also need to know where your trough is
going to be placed so you may choose plants appropriate to the
amount of sunlight received.
The planting mix is important. We use a
well-draining soilless mix that contains slow release
fertilizer and superphosphate for root development. The
mix should be light and airy with spaces to take in air and
expel gases. Air is as critical to plants as sufficient
moisture and nutrients. Use a gravel mulch. We
also add some small rocks. They are aesthetically pleasing and
also serve a few purposes. They slightly moderate
temperature extremes and help keep roots cool. They also
channel rain water to the plants and help prevent washout when
watering .Rocks and plants should be culturally compatible.
Do not use limestone rocks with plants that prefer a very acid
environment. Small pieces of wood can replace the rocks
in a woodland trough. For these shady troughs we prefer
a bark mulch rather than gravel. When siting the trough,
elevate it on feet or bricks to increase drainage.
Planted troughs are used for a variety of
reasons. The troughs raise the height of the plants and
segregates them from their neighbors. Troughs also work
well with plants that have special soil requirements or plants
that require very sharp drainage. Some plants live
longer and bloom better in a very dry environment.
Troughs add interest to entrances, walls, patios and terraces.
They can also be sited directly in a garden in a place of
The wintering of troughs is not difficult if
done properly. The trough should winter well if
constructed and cured properly. Plants selected should
be hardy to your area. If the trough is small enough to
move, place it in a sheltered spot or in an unheated porch or
garage. If it is too heavy to move, you can cover
it with evergreen branches for a little protection. It
is not freezing that kills plants in troughs in winter.
It is the constantly fluctuating temperatures.
Remember that a planted trough is a
reflection of the gardener. It can be staid and
conservative or wild and wonderful!