There’s still time to plant winter containers before it gets too cold.
“Conifers are great because they come in so many shapes, sizes and colours and give you structure right the way through the season,” says plantswoman and container expert Harriet Rycroft, whose new book Pots offers practical advice on all aspects of container planting.
“Then you’ve got a framework. You can fill in the gaps with seasonal colour that comes and goes, but you have that structure.”
Evergreen shrubs are tough and can be bought small cheaply and initially added to planters in a mixed display, after which they can be moved to a larger pot as stand-alone specimens and even made into topiary in subsequent years, she suggests.
Buying conifers small will always save you money. “Eventually you can have a big conifer,” adds Rycroft. “But other things can be put on top of it, so you could even arrange some pots on top of the pot to decorate it, or it can be a really useful backdrop to other pots.”
Rycroft likes to create groups of pots, focusing on details. “With conifers and grasses, you can make a framework so that when you stand back and look at the group, there’s a satisfying occupation of the space,” she says.
“There are ups and downs and things drooping over the pot. You can get classic triangular pointed shapes, but there are lots with much more character, which cascade or look fluffy or weird. If you mix that up a bit, you’ve got a framework that’s always interesting.”
Change fillers for more interest
Look in garden centres, which are great at creating seasonal displays and giving you ideas, she suggests. Also, lift plants out of your own garden to use in pots, such as grasses that have self-seeded.
Consider ornamental grasses
Rycroft says: “Grasses provide movement. There are lots of good carex with different colours. You can put them in pots on their own or plant small bulbs under the soil around them.”
When planting winter pots…
Avoid using compost with added wetting agents, because you won’t need that in winter, she advises. “Make sure the compost doesn’t feel sticky. If you squeeze it and it sticks together and doesn’t fall apart, it probably won’t be great for winter. But mix in grit or leaf mould if the compost is too moist.”
Winter plants can be fed habitually with slow-release fertiliser granules, which will release nutrients when they are needed, she adds.
What about watering?
Check the compost in your pot every week, Rycroft advises. If it is dry, give it some water. If a pot freezes, plants can’t pull moisture up from the roots. “Keep them consistently moist so that if it freezes, they won’t be so stressed.”
Pots by Harriet Rycroft is published by Frances Lincoln