Yay! We've Discovered The Best Pastime Ever

A positive outcome of the Covid Pandemic this spring has been that a lot of people locked down at home became “Gardeners.”

There has never been so many people taking up this wonderful pastime and discovering the Active, Creative, Interesting, Fascinating, Fulfilling and Rewarding hobby of growing plants we call Gardening.

It was very difficult in the spring to fill Patio Pots and Hanging Baskets with colourful plants for summer because, when Garden Centres were allowed to open in the middle of May, there were very few summer bedding plants with which to fill our containers. Many millions of these plants had been assigned to the compost heaps by the commercial nurseries because they had passed the sell by dates.

It is now time to change the scene and replant to make the Patio colourful through autumn and winter. Any container can be used if we follow a few basic guidelines. The container should be big enough to ensure it holds enough compost to prevent drying out too quickly which happens even in winter. Also it should hold a good layer of draining material at the bottom to prevent waterlogging like gravel or a drainage saucer. Also raising the container from the ground with pot feet is a good idea. By using a Multi compost with John Innes and 10% added grit both plants and bulbs will benefit.

It is not as important in winter if the pot is in sun or shade but positioning away from icy blasts in December and January is good.

Traditional autumn plant combinations are Pansies or Violas which will flower autumn, winter and spring under planted with dwarf daffodils like Tete a Tete and tulips like Red Riding Hood with attractive striped foliage. Another good scheme is Primroses, in flower in autumn and spring, with crocus flowering from January onwards. By including bulbs in the mix gives another dimension and a promise of added interest later. It is so exciting to see the first bulb shoots appearing in the dark winter days.

Combinations of small shrub and herbaceous plants attractively arranged coordinating colour and shape themes also under planted with small bulbs is another suggestion.

A couple of recipes to try are:

Maroon Pansies, Pinky Grey Succulent, Deep Red Flowering Heather, White Cyclamen and a Variegated Hebe planted in a 45cm Terracotta Bowl under planted with White Crocus.

Solanum, Yellow Feathery Santolina, Heuchera Silver Frost, and a Red leaved Cordyline under planted with Tulip Peaches and Cream. Stand a Pumpkin nearby and there’s a display for Halloween.

Autumn flowering Chrysanthemums give many weeks of colour way into winter when planted on their own in a 30cm container.

Daffodils can be planted in layers in a deep pot. Put 10 cm of compost on top of the drainage material and then a layer of daffodil bulbs about 10cm apart. Add another 10cm layer of compost and another layer of bulbs and if there is enough room repeat this ending with a layer of compost. The bulbs will all grow to the same height and burst from the pot.

What about planting a deep container with some layers of potatoes for New Potatoes to eat for lunch on Boxing Day? I use Jacks Magic Compost for this. Also for fresh herbs for the Turkey stuffing plant a pot with Sage and Thyme.

Hanging Baskets are another source of winter Plant Pleasure. It is better to plant one large basket for winter and spring interest so choose a 40cm basket. Using Jacks Magic Compost half fill the basket and add the layer of dwarf daffodils tulips or crocus. Then anything goes and all look good. For the trailing edge plants choose Aubretia, Ajuga, Lysimachia, Lamium, Variegated Thymes, Ivy, Heathers or Trailing Violas . For the upright middle plants look at  Helichrysum, Heuchera, Grasses and Dianthus.

If you have just started growing plants, rekindled an old interest or like some of us unable to live without a potter in the garden every day enjoy the best hobby The Garden. It will keep you sane.


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