Gardening: Stars of winter

SMALL WONDER: Cyclamen coum grow well with snowdrops.

SMALL WONDER: Cyclamen coum grow well with snowdrops.

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Many gardeners probably had a lovely show of container-grown flowers last year, but, then, come the colder months, they struggled to succeed with any colourful plants to take their place.

Yet there are plenty of plants only too happy and willing to bloom throughout the darkest months and then well into spring – as long as they receive the right care and attention.

Pansies, violas and primroses are among the most colourful and hardy and they 
will grace any container. But the star performer has got to be the more subtle and delicate Cyclamen coum, more often seen growing in swathes beneath leafless trees and in half-shaded spots where they can be left to create colonies of true winter flowers.

They go wonderfully well with snowdrops but they also stand out in pots where they will certainly be able to tolerate a fair amount of winter weather. In fact, the dainty Cyclamen coum is probably one of the toughest winter bloomers and is grown by many gardeners in between conifers and other shaded areas where light is at a premium.

But there’s nothing to stop anyone potting up a few in a container or two and moving them around the garden to make the most of the weather and the gradual change of the seasons.

Make sure you plant them in a decent compost and protect them from really severe weather – they do not appreciate being under a covering of snow for days on end.

You’ll be rewarded for your care by deep green, marbled, heart-shaped flowers and masses of exquisite pink flowers. Dead-head when the blooms start to look past their best and you’ll encourage even more.

If you’re still not sure about the merits of this lovely little cyclamen, other plants you could consider for pots in winter include the more traditional violas (such as ‘Floral Dance’) and heathers such as Erica carnea ‘Springwood White’, which has to be one of the hardiest of all winter-flowering plants.

And while we’re on about winter containers, when the weather forecast is for particularly harsh frost, it’s worthwhile clothing any vulnerable and costly pots in bubble wrap and placing them on terracotta feet or even bricks to lift them off the ground and improve drainage for their occupants.

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