There’s a nice feeling about the slow pace of the garden at this time of year, knowing that when something gets done, it’ll stay done for a while without the need for immediate attention again for weeks or even months.
Planting pots to last through winter definitely falls into this category, a bit of effort now and the reward will be there for months with only a little bit of attention from time time time.
I recently spent the afternoon at RHS Wisley Gardens for a little refresher about planting up winter pots.
Michaela Freed, who’s worked at Wisley for over 25 years, so she has bags of experience, talked us through the best type of plants and compost to use, how to look after them and keep them looking good over the next few months.
While summer pots can be a riot of colour, winter pots need a different approach. A core of evergreen plants or a single plant, depending on the size of the container, are the first ones to be planted, their role is structure and shape:
- Skimmia reevesiana
- herbs like rosemary or sage
- small conifers plants can be used in pots and planted in the garden later
- small ornamental grasses, such as Carex or Stipa tenuissima
Make sure the pot is big enough for plenty of spring flowering bulbs:
- early flowering tulips
- small daffodils
- iris reticulata
if you’re really clever you can have a variety of different types of bulbs that flower for weeks on end in late winter, early spring.
You can fill in with smaller plants like pansies and cyclamen, although cyclamen flowers don’t like very cold weather, they’re worth growing for their beautiful leaves. Small trailing ivy around the edge always look nice too.
A mix of loam based compost with lighter multi-purpose compost works well, but if like me you want to use peat-free compost, Sylvagrow by Melcourt is a good one to use.
These aren’t just for decoration, though they do look nice, lifting the pot off the ground lets the water drain out so that it doesn’t sit in the pot and freeze.
Looking after winter pots:
- dead-head flowers as they die so they’ll keep making more
- they need hardly any water, during winter but will need more in early spring
With hardly any attention they’ll last through the winter, place them near a front door or where they can be seen everyday from inside the house.
When it’s all done, the plants can be used in the garden, and the compost chucked onto the soil, so nothing goes to waste.