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Winter Containers

Just in case you’re thinking of closing the curtains on your garden and forgetting about it for the next few months, can I suggest you might like to plant up a winter container.

Container planting is as much about creativity and styling as it is about gardening. You don’t need green fingers or even a garden. You just need your imagination!

What pot?

Pots come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Garden centres offer a vast choice with everything from Grecian urns and Versaiiles tubs to ornate stone planters and contemporary zinc cubes. But why not look around for something a little more out of the ordinary. Many everyday objects can be used as containers such as wicker baskets, galvanised steel buckets or old clay chimney pots. They need only to fulfil two basic requirements – they must be able to hold compost and allow excess water to drain through.

Try to match the choice of your container to its setting. For example if it is to sit by your front door, take your cue from the style of your house or garden and try to match it.

Proportion comes into play here too. Generally the larger the pot, the greater the impact it will have although you can still make a powerful statement by grouping a number of small pots together.

Choosing Plants

Putting plants together is the tricky bit. The aim is to choose plants that have similar growing requirements in terms of sun, soil and moisture and arrange them to create an eye-catching, cohesive display. The easiest way to do this is to head straight to the garden centre where you can examine the stock, read the labels and try out different plant combinations.

By all means have a look at the readymade containers but you unlikely to find much inspiration here. The arrangements are often too busy and samey, planted with the usual suspects – winter pansies, polyanthus,dwarf conifers and ivy.

Winning combinations often have 3 types of plants within one container

  • One or more tall interesting evergreen plants, which provides the permanent focal point of the display.

  • Medium sized, more rounded plants that are the seasonal fillers

  • Plants that spill over to break up lines and soften the overall look

But this is only one suggestion. Some of the most effective displays use the same plant repeated several times within the design. Imagine a row of identical rustic tin cans containing French lavender on a window ledge or a series of classic terracotta pots with red geraniums lining a flight of steps.

Try it out

Experiment by putting plants together and see how they work with each other in relation to size, shape, texture and colour. Why not try a fine leaved grass like Anemanthele lessonia with a broad-leaved plant such as bergenia or heuchera, or use the same grass with a similar leaf shape like lilyturf. You will quickly see that contrasts can provide drama whilst similarities can provide harmony.

Try the same thing with colours. Colours from the same side of the spectrum, reds, oranges and yellows can create harmony whilst colours from opposite sides such as red and green, orange and blue, or yellow and purple create a much bolder look.

There are endless opportunities to create something original – the only limit is your imagination!

A pretty lead trough generously filled with silver-leaved plants and white cyclamen with marbled grey/green leaves work together to create an elegant visual statement. Set it against a pale green door and it’s picture perfect!

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