Take our 30-Minute Winter Colour Planter ChallengeAli Barwani
Take our 30-Minute Winter Colour Planter Challenge.
Give your garden a winter boost and a splash of colour, use a container to grow plants that will thrive and bloom in all but the harshest of winters, and will continue flowering on into spring if you keep up with the dead-heading (removing the old, faded flowers). Follow the six simple steps below to create your own beautiful display to enhance the front garden, brighten a balcony, or cheer up that neglected patio.
Before starting the challenge, you will need the following ingredients:
- large tub or planter with drainage holes
- hand trowel
- gardening gloves
- potting compost
- a selection of pot grown plants suitable for containers
- full watering can
Choosing your container:
Look around the garden. Are there any planters that are empty, or looking a tad tired after the last burst of autumn colour has faded? Why leave your planters bare and off-putting over winter when they can be emptied and cleaned up for replanting? My colleague Lin kindly gave me two lovely ceramic tubs that she no longer uses in her garden, and I will be planting these up with winter bedding this weekend.
Think about having fun with your tubs. Remember planters can be just attractive as the plants. Be imaginative, for example – old wooden fruit crates or wicker hampers lined with weed control fabric make unusual upcycled rustic planters. If you are repurposing a container for planting it is important that you make sure it has drainage holes, or that you add some, before planting it up.
If you don’t have any empty planters then Capital Gardens stock a wide range of outdoor pots and tubs in wood, ceramic and plastic, as well as wooden wine-box style planters in various sizes. Don’t forget to check out our vibrant glazed pots for some colour inspo. We also stock pot-saucers, pot-feet and wheeled caddies for containers.
A suitable soil:
Once you have chosen your container you will need the right soil to keep your plants happy. I would recommend a multipurpose compost or a John Innes no. 3 plant compost. Using fresh compost each time you plant up a tub minimizes the risk of pests and diseases being passed on and will ensure the compost has all the nutrients and elements your plants will need to flourish.
Picking the right plants:
- Autumn is a great time for planting, there is still some warmth in the sun and enough light to let the new plants settle in before the icy hand of winter spreads out across our gardens.
- When selecting your plants think about contrasts and combinations. Just like a garden, a tub can be devoted to a mood or a colour. Think of your container as a miniature garden.
- You may want to create a colour-themed tub: for example, a purple motif might include Heuchera, ‘Plum Pudding’ and mauve violas with pink winter heather (Erica carnea). Winter heathers have the advantage of not needing ericaceous compost.
- Choosing rich reds and burgundies will give your planter a luxurious and warm feel.
- A white and green theme gives you the opportunity to introduce plants with variegated foliage. Flowers in pastel shades look particularly good against a background of white and silver foliage.
- The Black turf-lily Ophiopogon combines well with Golden Hakonechloa grass, caramel coloured Heuchera ‘Coral Bells’ and the white ‘Christmas rose’, to produce a sophisticated modern look.
- For the biggest range of colours in winter bedding nothing beats large flowered pansies and smaller flowered violas. A tray or two of these will give instant impact to a pot. Both pansies and violas are great in combination with other plants.
- Winter heathers give you pinks and whites to play with. Ornamental brassica cabbages provide bold balls of colour with their green white and purple foliage. Winter flowering cyclamen with dainty flowers in red, pink and white also produce very attractive marbled leaves.
- Trailing plants add an extra dimension to displays, with their graceful hanging stems. Ivy, Vinca minor, and Glechoma hederacea ‘Variegata’ are great trailers for container growing.
- To inject some bonfire colours to warm you on the chilliest of days then add some bright fruits with Capsicum ‘Carnival’ and the Winter Cherry Solanum pseudocapsicum.
Shrubs & perennials to style the look:
We carry a range of small plants ideal for planting up winter containers. Our ‘Tubs & Basket’ selection includes Sedum, lavender, thyme, and shrubs such as Photinia ‘Little Red Robin’, Ceanothus, Euonymus, and Escallonia, and small trees including
Chamaecyparis, and Cupressus ‘Goldcrest’. The range also includes ferns and Euphorbia, the bronze sedge Carex, curly Juncus rush, and blue Festuca grass.
Compact Gaultheria (also known as Pernettya) is a great container plant that produces large berries for winter interest. It prefers a shady position and ericaceous soil.
These add height and drama to a display. A large, spikey Cordyline gives colour and a strong silhouette. Evergreen shrubs like the red flowered Skimmia ‘Rubella’ and white flowered Skimmia ‘Finchy’ provide both colour and greenery to a container. Callicarpa, the Beautyberry, is admired by gardeners for its dense clusters of purple berries that last into November. The winterberry, Ilex verticilliata, produces eye-catching wax red berries carried on bare stems. The colourful stems of some dogwoods (Cornus) will introduce drama and height to your winter container. And when these shrubs eventually grow too large for their containers they can be planted out in the garden.
Two top hacks for winter containers:
Spring bulbs can be popped in at the same time you are planting up. Choose small flowering forms such as Narcissus tete a tete and snowdrops. You can add these later if you prefer – when they become available in flower in pots.
Spring bedding plants such as primulas and the bedding daisy Bellis can be used to inject fresh zing later in the season.
The 30-minute challenge – planting your pot:
- Fill your container with fresh potting compost almost to the top.
- Arrange your plants in the container until you feel satisfied with the look you have created.
- Pop each plant out of its pot and plant into the container, filling up the spaces in between with extra compost. Each plant should be at the same level it was at in the pot it was growing in.
- Firm down the soil gently with your hands.
- Water well. And remember to check regularly during the winter to make sure the plants don’t dry out.
- Take a photo of your creation and send it to us, or tag us on Instagram and Twitter
So why not join me in planting up a container this week? We are looking forward to seeing photographs of all your lovely winter tubs and containers.
And finally, what if I am too busy to take the challenge? Don’t worry, we have some pre-planted tubs that you can pick up and take away without having do anything.
By Ali Barwani, Capital Gardens.
For more planting ideas and inspiration for winter planters visit;
For more information about the best plants for containers;