Colour can be had right through winter
Blowing a gale outside! I think this will see the end of the bedding plants in various large pots. They have done well and mustn't complain. Time (when the gale stops) to clear them out. When empty, some of them can be resited.
A garden designer friend informed me the other month that the latest trend is to plant up large exotic-looking pots and put them on top of tall wooden or stone pillars. Nothing unusual in that, I hear you say. The thing is they have the pots tilted so they look as if they will fall off at any moment. In my garden and especially today with this gale, old West and North winds would soon sort them out into a heap on the floor! Not one to criticise too hastily, I tried it. Ten minutes later completely irritated by waiting for the crash (and Old Jack telling me that one of my pots had fallen over) I straightened the pot. Verdict? A crooked pot in the garden drives me round the bend!
Often it is advised that spring flowering subjects should follow summer bedding in tubs and troughs but this makes them winter bare and rather uninteresting. There is an alternative: by careful choice of plants over bulbs, colour can be had right through winter.
There are several bulbs to look out for. The very early-flowering dwarf cyclamineus daffodils are a real joy: February Gold, the milky-white February Silver and the lovely golden-yellow Peeping Tom too which I have known to flower as early as January. Some of the narcissus species are extra early: the tiny Minimus, the double yellow Telemonius Plenus and the sulphur-white WP Wilner.
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Some crocus can be used also. Speciosus Aitchisonii gives cute soft-blue flowers and niveus pure white blooms with orange throats in November. Imperati Jagerii will show fragrant violet and lilac blooms in December and Ancyrensis gives a brilliant display of orange in February followed closely by the yellow-and-purple Korolkowii. And of course there are the snowdrops: the gorgeous, simple, nivalis greets the New Year with its single nodding bells.
Probably the most popular plants for top cover are the Universal pansies – the so called Winter Pansies. These will flower from when you first plant them and, if the winter is kind, persist in bloom throughout winter and on into early summer.
But do, before you plant these pansies, bite the bullet and remove all the flowers and the buds from the plants. This ensures all the energy goes into the plants producing new roots and foliage. This pays dividends when the pansies crop more heavily with stronger flowering stems.
The erica carnea varieties (the winter heathers) are deservedly popular too. Aurea with lovely gold-yellow leaves and pink flowers; the Springwoods, Pink and White; the white bells of Cecilia M. Beale and the pink of Winter Beauty. All flowering from November to May.
Sedum spathulifolium Purpureum gives winter interest with its bright, rich, purple-penny leaves and Arabis caucasica Flore Pleno gives everyone a nice surprise when it sends up the odd interesting double white flower throughout winter.
Small ivies are oh so useful! If you can find them Hedera helix Mrs Ulin looks splendid in winter when her veins are prominently white on deep green foliage. The colder it becomes, the more Anne Marie blushes her cream and Adam adds pink to his green-and-white suit.
Thymes look good all year round but are especially useful in winter. The old favourite Doone Valley has a flowerless spreading mat of green speckled with gold and citriodorus Aureus is neatly golden-leaved.
Of course there are other plants to try. Give your containers a new lease of life with winter colour. Nice chatting to you!