Pots of Color
Don't give up
on your containers, just because the summer's ended.
Joe Swift's got some great ideas for keeping them looking
bright and beautiful through the coming months.
You may think that your garden is looking tired and
that the colour has gone for another year, but think
again. This is the perfect time to make over your planters,
whether they are pots on the patio or troughs on the
windowsill, to help brighten up the shorter, darker
days ahead. If you add spring flowering bulbs as well
you could be reaping the rewards well into next year.
There are some really
reliable plants that can be put in straight away to
give immediate impact to your containers. Heathers
are available in a range of colours, from whites through
pinks to my favourites - lush deep purples, which work
perfectly as an autumn colour. They like acidic
soil, so plant into ericaceous
compost to keep them healthy. Skimmias are also acid-loving
plants that look great into the autumn with their display
of flowers then berries.
The female Skimmia
japonica has bright red berries against a dark evergreen
leaf. Buy it with berries on to make sure it’s
a female. It can be planted out into the garden next
year, but will only flower and fruit again if it has
a male plant close by. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’
has coppery stalks bearing long open sprays of beautiful
pink buds all winter.
plants for a winter container include Euonymous
fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ with its crisp
white edge to the evergreen leaf or E.
f. ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, which
has a golden yellow edge. Their contrasting foliage
and tolerance of shade can be really useful in brightening
a shady balcony or windowsill.
If it’s bright colours you’re after, winter
flowering pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are unbeatable.
They are available in pretty much every colour under
the sun, so you can either do a planned display of complementary
colours or throw caution to the wind, forget about trying
to be tasteful and mix all the colours together for
a real old-fashioned ‘eyecatcher’. They
are also good for underplanting
the heathers or skimmias, and will flower for ages.
The larger flowering
is a classy plant for a winter window box. They are
available in rich pinks, purples and whites. They will
look great when planted alongside the black grass Ophiopogon
planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’. In fact, this
black grass works well in any winter container display
and brilliantly sets off all colours and textures. A
along the front of the container will help to break
up the edge whilst also setting off the other plants.
For a central plant in a container think about the red
australis ‘purpurea’. It will add an
architectural quality and give a bit of height. When
it grows too big for the container it can be planted
straight out into the garden where it will easily earn
As well as planning for the immediate future this is
the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. They can be
planted quite densely into containers with other plants
and, apart from watering, can be pretty much forgotten
about. The other plants can then be ‘thinned out’
in the spring, allowing space for the bulbs to come
up and flower properly.
There are plenty of spring bulbs to choose from: daffodils,
tulips, snowdrops, iris, scilla, narcissus, winter aconites,
cyclamen and grape hyacinths, to name a few. Again,
the combinations you choose are all down to your taste.
If you’re aiming for a designed look limit yourself
to fewer varieties, but plant greater quantities of
each: two or three colours will make more impact.
There are plenty
of spring bulbs to choose from: daffodils, tulips, snowdrops,
iris, scilla, narcissus, winter aconites, cyclamen and
grape hyacinths, to name a few. Again, the combinations
you choose are all down to your taste. If you’re
aiming for a designed look limit yourself to fewer varieties,
but plant greater quantities of each: two or three colours
will make more impact.
As a rule, plant bulbs twice as deep as the bulb itself,
so if its 1 inch long, dig a hole 3 inches deep and
put the bulb in the bottom, then backfill the soil on
top. Make sure the planter has enough depth for the
bulbs you want to grow, and that there is good drainage
otherwise the bulb will get too wet and rot.
Whatever you plant in your containers make sure that
they can easily be seen from inside. It’s unlikely
you’ll be going out much during the colder days,
but that doesn’t mean you have to go through the
whole of winter without any colour in your life!
our Superstore to see its vast range of winter and spring
See also the Helping Hands workshops:
to plant a bulb in earth
to plant a container
to plant a window box
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com