Plant up winter pots to cheer up your doorstep and patio right the way through the coldest months of the year.
There’s no need to do without a good-looking container display all winter, as there are dozens of plants which will give you a brilliant splash of winter colour and are perfectly happy in a container. Drop by the garden centre here in Guildford this week and you’ll find a mouthwatering selection, including dainty cyclamen, colourful pansies, evergreen grasses and perennials, and even shrubs with coloured stems or winter flowers. You’ll also find a fabulous selection of pots in a variety of frost-proof materials from terracotta and galvanised steel to lead-effect planters made from high-quality plastic.
Start with a larger centrepiece: red-stemmed dogwoods make beautiful vertical accents, or you could try scarlet-berried skimmia, strikingly colourful New Zealand flax (Phormium) or purple cordylines. Add an underplanting of lower-growing perennials, such as heucheras, grassy bronze carex or winter-flowering hellebores; and finish off by softening the edges with trailing ivy, heathers or creeping thyme. Extend the season by underplanting with early spring bulbs such as snowdrops, daffodils and hyacinths; and fill any gaps with colourful winter pansies or primulas.
Choose a sheltered, sunny spot for your pot and raise it up on pot feet to make sure it can drain freely – plants will quickly perish in cold, soggy compost. Fill it with compost until it’s two thirds full, then knock the plants from their pots and arrange them the way you like them. Once you’re happy, fill in with more compost around the rootballs and firm in gently. Water the pot thoroughly, then finish off with a mulch of gravel, slate or stone chippings: this not only sets off the plants beautifully, it also locks in water (saving you a few trips with the watering can) and keeps out weed seeds, too.