Colourful pots for Christmas
You already have enough to do
Skimmia reevesiana - self fertile but tricky to establish
Christmas is a busy time of the year with gift buying, meal planning and tree decorating. Many people now also use outside decorations and lights to adorn their houses garden bushes and trees. Being a lover of Christmas time I'm all in favour of it. You'd think that would be enough to be getting on with but I would add one more task and that would be to make up a pot for the front door planted with some winter colourful plants.
The hardest aspect for a winter pot is to create a centre piece with height at a reasonable cost. If you already have a pot at your front door with say a cone or ball shaped box or bay tree then you can just use some underplanting of colour around that. If you don't have a pot or the pot you have was used exculsively for summer colour you'll have to work a little harder. You could invest in a bay or box as a permanent feature but these will be pricey. Holly plants are available and could also be used, which would be very festive especially if in berry.
Skimmias are another berrying plant that will give you less height but still enough to work. There are male and female Skimmias so the females will be those that are in berry. The alternative male plants usually Skimmia 'Rubella' are also lovely at the moments with masses of red flower buds that will open white in spring. For a cheaper option upright conifers can be used, usually in the form of Cypressus macrocarpa in a golden foliage but various Chamaecyparis and Thujas are aslo available. Varieties of Cordyline and Phormium can be used for their colourful striking grassy foliage. The bonus with all the above is that they can be transplanted into the garden in spring and become part of your permanent planting. A cut off twisted branch from a contorted willow or hazel can be effective even though leafless and a pruned off birch branch sprayed silver or white can look well at little cost.
The underplanting, I think, should be as colourful or should I say flowery as possible. I differentiate because I love white and there may be many of you that wouldn't consider white as particularly colourful. For me winter cyclamen provide the best colour at this time of year and a combination of white and rich red is especially vibrant and seasonal. I'm sure Santa and a soft drinks manufacturer would concur with that. Strong purples and pinks and soft reds and pinks are other colour choices. Cyclamen will flower right through to spring maybe taking a short break if the temperatures get really cold. They will sucessfully plant out into the garden but are rarely as good in flower the second year.
Other underplanting colour options include pansies and violas which are really spring flowering and not of great impact at this time of year but great for then. Primroses are also popular but again are at their best in spring. Often they are seen now showing bud colour but very little flower. If you bring them indoors for a few days they will open up and can then be planted into your pots and they will provide a Christmas display worthy of the season. Other flowering plants that are now offered as winter bedding include blue Campanulas and Heleborus niger, the Christmas rose, with lovely white flower and yellow stamens. Both will become sucessful garden plantsin your borders if transplanted in the spring. Heathers are also in flower but I find them rather drab to be honest.
Non flowering under planting includes the berrying Gaultheria procumbens, red berries, and Solanum pseudocapsicum, orange berries. For additional foliage interest the silver blue grass Festuca glauca and the silver Calocephalus contrast well with other plants like Heuchera. Ivys as trailing plants will complete any pot.
Be aware that with winter planting like this it won't fill out and grow like your summer bedding so plant as you intend it to be seen. Also I wouldn't replace all the compost in existing pots. Just clear out the old planting and top up with fresh compost as these winter bedding plants will make up virtually no root between now and when you change them for your summer bedding. Clear out then and refill the pot completely with fresh compost.
All the best for a happy Christmas.