Monday 18 December 2017

Cheer yourself with winter colour

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Try to keep on top of weeds, they are still growing.

Vinca difformis star shaped white flowers all winter.

The Met Office has started to give storms names this year, Abigail, Barney and Clodagh so far. The way the weather has been behaving of late it feels like by spring we may well have completed the alphabet and be back on the A's. Storm Andrew perhaps as there are dark clouds over shadowing my gardening intentions every time I look outside on my somewhat forlorn garden.

But in the season of goodwill I won't let it get me down and the best remedy for this is to actively get some new life and colour into the garden. We can do this by clearing out the bedding plants from those summer pots and replanting with some winter interest and colour. Now having said 'clear out' you may have a decision to make here regarding what still looks good in your summer pots.

Because our winters are so mild, particularly before the end of the year, some summer bedding plants may still be looking great. Marguerite daisies and a small white flowered trailing plant call Bacopa are two plants in my pots that are still looking good. To remove them and replace with some winter colour may actually leave me with pots that look less impressive in the run up to Christmas.

The Bacopa is particularly useful as it is a trailing plant which is hard to replace in a winter interest pot, Ivy being really the only option. So say you have a pot with a lovely trailing Bacopa and Marguerite in but with dead lobelia and Petunias. Take out the dead plants and replace these with fresh colour like Cyclamen. This will give you with a full looking pots but with some extra pep.

Other considerations to bear in mind though are that these summer plants probably won't see you through the entire winter once some real frosts set in. Also the very idea of seasonal, may make you hanker for a complete change to fit in with the time of year. What ever you decide all pots benefit from some additional verve for winter.

When planting a pot it is it usual to have some height in the middle or back, some lower planting around this and something to trail over the pot sides. Because the plants used are not really going to grow much if at all over winter you can basically use anything that takes your fancy, looks good and suits your budget. As your tall centre piece you can use a narrow conifer, green, blue or yellow foliaged. This is probably the cheapest option.

Skimmia 'Rubella' will also give some height and has a red/pink bud against a dark green glossy leaf. Other Skimmias that have berries can be used and these look very Christmassy but are quite pricey. Unusual alternatives are Mahonia 'Charity', Phormium varieties, Pittosporums and even small holly plants. All these plants can be transplanted into the garden in spring so won't go to waste. A cheap alternative for height is to use a bunch of interesting twigs, particularly if you have the plant in your garden-no robbing off the neighbours.

Corkscrew willows, Salix 'Tortuosa' or corkscrew hazel, Corylus avellana 'Contorta' make a twisted interesting option. Coloured stems of the dogwoods in yellow, red and orange grouped together also fit the bill. Even birch twigs give a pleasing effect. All these work well espsecially when mixed with ornamental grasses, evergreen ferns and heathers to give an almost woodland feel to a somewhat unconventional but innovative pot.

At a lower level for colour primroses, pansies, cyclamen, and viola tend to be the plants available. Plants like the variegated Euonymus and Heuchera, which comes in warm purple and coral coloured leaves can be used. For trailing unless, you are lucky enough like me to have surviving Bacopa, Ivy is the only option or maybe some Vinca [Periwinkle] might do the job.

Wexford People

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