Instant winter colour: hot gardening pots

imageSimple winter containers are a great way to brighten the gloom, says Ed Cumming.

Much of the country is recovering from snow, and gardens are drab and brown. It’s the perfect time to spruce things up with some instant winter colour. A few well-chosen containers can tide things over until spring. Though many garden centres offer pre-planted versions, nothing beats making your own from scratch. A pot, some evergreen foliage and a couple of trays of colourful bulbs or bedding plants are all you need.

Matthew Wilson, the managing director of Clifton Nurseries in west London, says the key is to ensure there is a variety of textures and colours, as well as a mix of shrubs and bulbs.

“I use bedding sparingly in winter pots,” he says, “but use a lot of bulbs mixed in with shrubs such as stem colour dogwoods, or the heavenly bamboo Nandina domestica. This has great berries and, in its cultivar ‘Firepower’, the most intense red foliage. Architectural plants such as standard olive, bay, even agave can all look very dramatic too.”

He adds that the container itself is just as important as the plants. “The type, style and colour of the container is never more important than in winter. Glazed, textured pots are especially good, as they reflect light on dull days. A colourful glaze can complement the plants. A sea-green pot looks wonderful with vibrant early yellow daffodils, and the orange stems of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’.

“The shape of the pot is also important. A tall, graceful pot makes a big statement in a winter garden.”

Isabelle Palmer, the director of the Balcony Gardener, which specialises in snazzy pre-made containers for small spaces, says: “Make sure the pot has good drainage: use pot feet, and plant up the container with pebbles at the bottom. Beware of overwatering – a small container doesn’t need much. Also, always use plants in odd numbers, as it makes for a more striking display.

“Box and bay trees work well with red and white winter berries. Hebe, cabbages and heather make a stunningly bright container, and you can add orange, red and purple capsicums. Or try trailing variegated ivy, with lavender and purple heather.”

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