‘The envy of your neighbours’: What to plant for autumn-winter pot displays – Mark Lane

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At this time of the year, we need some colour, scent, texture and form to keep our mood and senses uplifted. There may be grey skies outside, dark mornings and evenings, but we can bring plants close to the house, the front door, the patio doors or outside a window in pots, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets.

By opting for a range of plants and underplanting with spring and summer bulbs you can have permanent pot displays for 12 months of the year.

Depending on the amount of sunlight the area gets, will dictate the choice of plants.

In other words, if you’ve a sunny spot then go for sun-loving plants.

For a shadier spot think woodland-type planting and shade-loving plants.

This might sound difficult, especially if new to gardening, but a quick internet search, reading the plant label in the garden centre or asking a member of staff will shed light on a plant’s growing requirements.

The first thing to remember is that growing in pots and containers of all shapes and sizes means that you’re creating a growing environment.

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You can add ericaceous soil if you want to grow acid-loving plants such as Acer, Azalea, Rhododendron, Hydrangea and Narcissus, or standard peat-free compost or homemade compost for alkaline and neutral-loving plants, such as Marjoram, Polemonium, Lavandula or Lonicera.

Ensure your pots and containers have drainage holes and lightly cover these with ‘crocks’, or broken terracotta pots, even recycle unused, broken-up polystyrene or broken plastic pots.

These will stop the soil blocking the holes when you water the plants.

For a window box grow a mix of evergreen ferns like Blechnum spicant (deer fern) and Asplenium scolopendrium (hart’s tongue fern) for structure along with cyclamen and viola.

Try Viola cornuta ‘Antique Shades’ F1 with purple, coppery orange petals with dark veins, alongside Viola cornuta ‘Tiger Eye Red’ with amber petals with a maroon reverse and dark maroon veins.

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Cyclamen coum has rounded, heart-shaped leaves with silver markings and flowers in magenta, pink or white and bloom from December to March.

Underplant with Narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête’ (dwarf daffodil), Tulipa ‘Greigii Mix’ and Iris reticulata ‘Purple Hill’ for shots of colour in the spring.

Outside the front door plant, the evergreen Sarcococca confusa in the centre with a delicious, sweet scent or ‘The Looking Glass’ plant, Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Night’ with shiny, deep burgundy, almost black, leaves or the deep, purple-leafed Chinese Witch Hazel, Loropetalum ‘Black Pearl’ with fragrant pink tassle-like flowers. (This will need some protection with horticultural fleece in severe winters.)

Mix in the black ornamental grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, some edible and ornamental veggies like Mustard ‘Red Frills’, Mustard Spinach (Komatsuna) and Choy Sum along with edible flowers such as the popular Viola ‘Cool Pink’ mix, the multi-layered Pansy ‘Frizzle ‘Sizzle’ mix and Primrose ‘Everlast’.

Every time you go outdoors, come home or open the door to visitors you’re welcomed with a colourful and scented display for months on end.

Not everyone has the space for pots and containers, so hanging baskets are a great way to introduce some winter delight.

Go for vibrant colours, gorgeous foliage and delightful textures.

Violas and pansies are at the top of the list, but heucheras, like Heuchera x ‘Autumn Leaves’, can add texture and foliage, as can ornamental cabbages – some, such as Brassica ‘Osaka Pink’ will gradually change colour.

The winter-flowering heather, Erica carnea, are tough and hardy, as are Cyclamen coum.

Alternatively, go for a modern twist and plant up a ball of hanging baskets with the fully winter frost hardy houseleek or Sempervivum.

These are evergreen and come in a range of colours.

Mix in some trailing ivy and you’ll have a basket or ball that’s the envy of your neighbours.

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