Switch on the bulbs

It may still be warm, but now's the time to protect tender plants like Brugmansia.
It may still be warm, but now's the time to protect tender plants like Brugmansia.
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Most people will have finished planting up pots and containers ready for next spring, but there’s no need to have just bare compost for the next few weeks until the flowers start to appear.

Mixed pots of spring bulbs and winter bedding will provide colour on the patio throughout the winter. By layering different types of bulbs at various levels you can increase the length of flowering display.

Put a layer of compost into the bottom of the pot and pop in daffodils about 3cm (1in) apart at this deepest layer. After adding some more compost, place some early tulips such in the middle layer and repeat the process with some crocus.

To complete the display and to provide colourful flowers for most of the winter top off the pot with flowering Bellis or winter pansies and violas.

Window boxes can also be transformed with a similar planting plan or you could try something completely new and use winter heathers to provide long-lasting colour when mixed with a dwarf rhododendron and the bright variegated foliage of pieris.

As these plants belong to the Erica family they will need to be planted in an ericaceous compost – one that provides acid growing condition and doesn’t contain any lime.

And while pots are the subject, if you’ve been growing tender exotic plants on your patio, such as Angel’s Trumpets (Brugmansia), banana or Canna lilies, you’ll need to find them a protected place to help them survive the coming winter.

A heated conservatory or porch is ideal, but, at a pinch, an unheated greenhouse could be sufficient if you wrap up your plants well.

Pots can be wrapped in a couple of layers of bubble wrap to provide insulation for the roots, while plant stems need to have the potential for air movement to prevent the stems from rotting off. The easiest way to do this is to push three or four canes into the outside edge of the pot and create a circular cage of chicken wire attached to these supports. Then it’s a simple matter of pushing dry straw into the cage to insulate the stem and growing point from the harshest of winter frosts.

Many gardeners can’t be bothered to go to such lengths and opt, instead, to let nature takes its course. In a mild winter, the policy usually pays off; in a harsh winter...