Gardening.qxp_Layout 2 20/01/2020 09:27 Page 1
A bit of winter container colour will get you out and enjoying the garden again
Plants in containers feel somehow more manageable, especially if you’re new to gardening, says Elly West, and a carefully thought-out container display can really create a strong focal point when there is not much else to look at
t’s sometimes hard to feel motivated in the garden at this time of year, when the days are short and it’s still so cold outside. Evergreens, berries and winter stems are all working hard, but the vibrancy of spring is a good handful of weeks away, and something new and fresh to fill the gap could be just what is needed to get outside and start enjoying the garden again. This is where a carefully thought-out container display can really create a strong focal point when there is not much else to look at, especially if you place it in a prominent spot such as next to the front door, to give you and your visitors a cheerful welcome. Whatever the size of your outdoor space, or however adept your green-fingered skills are, just about anyone can include a few pots that will ring the changes and create a seasonal display. My very first garden – which was behind a London Victorian terrace – was jam-packed with pots as border space was scarce and it was an easy way to try out new plants and really take notice of their progress and what they had to offer, as opposed to border plants that would sometimes get lost among the plants (or weeds!) around them. Plants in containers feel somehow more manageable, especially if you’re new to gardening. It’s relatively easy to keep an eye on a container display, cosset and tend to it. Plants generally get off to a better start in fresh new compost – you can water and feed as necessary and move the whole lot into shelter if the weather turns particularly harsh. Once the display is past it’s best, it can be moved to a hidden 84 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE
corner of the garden, or replanted anew. Pots can be shuffled around as you wish, either to create new planting combinations with other pots or within the border. So if you’re planning to create a new display, the fun starts when you choose your container. For a cohesive look, choose pots of the same colour or material – a group of traditional terracotta, or lead or faux lead planters for example. Some of the modern fake materials such as stone or lead look as good as the real thing, but at a fraction of the weight, not to mention cost. Or if you already have a mismatch of colours and styles that you don’t want to change, you could ‘zone’ them, grouping together the ones that are similar to one another and spacing them out around your garden. You can always paint your existing pots a particular colour if you do want to give them a revamp and create more unity. But of course, it’s all down to personal choice. My old London garden contained a complete medley of colours and styles, and I was perfectly happy with that. If you’re choosing new pots, go for those marked as frost-proof. Your plants will be dictated by the size of pot you choose. A row of small pots filled with just one type of plant can make for a simple and elegant display, or you may want to splash out on a larger pot that will take a combination of plants. The downside to having a large container is that it can be very heavy to move once filled with compost and plants, so consider putting it on castor wheels, or fill the first half of the pot with broken polystyrene packaging to reduce the weight.