Containers hold key to beating winter blues

Grape hyacinths will provide weeks, even months, of colour.
Grape hyacinths will provide weeks, even months, of colour.
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Winter is creeping ever closer, but hopefully, it will be as balmy as the last – relatively warm, wet and windy and devoid of the snow and ice which hammered Yorkshire in 2012-13.

Whatever we get, it’s likely to be a dark and pretty dismal few months, but there are ways you can bring colour and light into the garden because there is light and life and colour in abundance – in containers.

If you have insufficient room for a traditional garden, then grow plants in containers. If you can’t provide the right soil and situation for a particular plant, then grow it in a container. Create a movable feast.

Someone once said that growing plants in containers was like hanging pictures in rooms – they provide the final touch. And they also provide a welcome escape from winter.

It’s now just about possible to plant shrubs and winter-hardy plants in pots, troughs and baskets – at any time of year. As long as they are positioned in the right place, they should grow and thrive. You can care for them, pamper them, maintain them at the peak of fitness so they return your generosity with months of foliage and even flowers.

Try skimmias. Plant three or four S japonica “Rubella” in an 18in-diameter pot. Use a lime-free compost and ensure it never dries out, give it a liquid feed every fortnight, and you should have a winter of glossy green leaves followed by a spring of white flowers and an autumn and winter of brilliant berries.

But the real beauty of winter containers is their ability to suddenly explode into life when the world outside is at its most depressing.

A mass of grape hyacinths under-planted with dwarf tulips or daffodils will provide weeks, if not months, of colour. All you need is the pot, the compost, the bulbs and a bit of space.

So why stop at bulbs? And why stop at winter? Grow herbs in pots, cultivate dwarf roses, regal lilies, succulents, herbaceous perennials, miniature strawberries, which not only produce lovely little pink flowers, but lots of lovely red little fruits.

If you want the miniature garden but don’t want to put in a lot of effort, try winter-flowering pansies or heathers or even grasses.