There's lots of options to lift the winter gloom
Throughout the year we aim to have a constant display of colour in the garden, which is complemented by vases of flowers and potted plants in our living space.
If the choice appears unlimited in summer once the growing season is in full flow, but not quite so as winter deepens, it’s clearly time to get planting, even on a modest scale, and lift the gloom associated with this cooler, darker season.
Our late chrysanthemums are offering splendid blooms for indoor use as December approaches, and there’s a fair selection of evergreen, shrubby growth in the garden to accompany them.
That’s the beauty of planting hardy specimens with variegated leaves and coloured stems – once they’re mature, apart from the constant ornamental presence comes the facility of snipping away at them continuously for indoor decoration.
Simple, stand-alone foliage arrangements become a possibility, as does the collection of winter-flowering shrubs in a vase, some captivatingly fragrant.
And when bunches of early daffodils arrive at the supermarket direct from Jersey, there are stems of dogwood or golden lonicera standing by to join them.
Thankfully, there are also lots of potted indoor plant options to balance the attraction of hardy garden shrubs, some of which were on display at Heighley Gate Garden centre last week.
Potted poinsettia, cyclamen, azalea and bowls of hyacinth showing great potential immediately caught the eye. They’re all perennials, each quite capable of lasting several years, so the purchase is not seen as a one-off, rather an investment for the future.
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Whenever I see cyclamen it’s the colour range of the bracts that arouse interest. Rather like the original Model T Ford car that was only available in black, these plants were solely in red initially, but now there’s an ever-increasing colour choice. I like the pink variety, but always have in mind never to become too familiar with any of them.
These plants have photosensitising properties. The botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima highlights it as a member of a family with milky-white sap that flows when a leaf or stem is bruised. Contact with the skin results in painful blistering that can last for days so just be careful when handling.
Hyacinths bring a wow factor in colour and fragrance just when it’s needed. Buy a bowl now and keep them in full light and the coolest room for best effect. When the flowers eventually fade, plant the bulbs outdoors where they’ll become naturalised and entertain you for years.
Who can resist pots of azalea indica?
When selecting one, go for a specimen with lots of healthy buds just opening, and give it a position with light and modest warmth to extend flowering.
To secure its presence next year, plunge the plant, pot and all, into a part of the garden that enjoys sunlight, once the risk of frost has passed. A summer break outdoors sets it up nicely for next winter flowering.