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Instant Winter Colour

By Andrew Fisher Tomlin. Christmas is over and it's all looking a bit drab and dull out in the garden...

The snowdrops aren't ready to start blooming but I can see the first shoots. The Witch Hazels seem really reluctant to bloom as well and the berry colour I've been relying on has been stripped by the birds as they look for food. It's great to have some good winter tree shapes and last year's grasses are still looking good in the frost but now we need some COLOUR!

Take a trip down to the garden centre and see what's happening. This is the best place to get some instant winter colour because shops sell what's looking good right now. You'll be surprised how many great plants there are and if you get a pot you can try out some combinations before making a final purchase. Here are some recipe ideas for a winter splash by your front door.

Foliage
We need to depend on foliage quite a lot at this time of year so I go for the evergreens such as Skimmia japonica with its strong leaves, the grasses such as the variegated Carex Fishers Form and Elephant's Ears or Bergenia rubrum. An astonishing plant is Arum italicum Pictum which seems to leaf and flower at opposite times to other plants so it is always a good filler. My favourite though has to be the Christmas Box Sarcococca humilis with its sweet smelling flowers.

Flowers
It's not the easiest time of year for flowers but you can cheat a little by buying pots of budding Narcissus that have been imported from warmer climes or greenhouses. I also planted Winter pansies in window boxes back in October but you might still be able to get some and they'll brighten any corner. I know a lot of you are less keen to go so bright, cheap and cheerful with plants but hey, it's only for a few months and your neighbours will appreciate them too! And then there are the heathers that can bring masses of colour to any arrangement.

You don't need to fuss over feeding at this time of year either as plants are not really actively growing at this time of year. Wait until Spring and then feed the pots with a good all round fertiliser. I like to stuff a lot of plants into a pot but this means re-planting quite regularly. I plant many of these plants into borders but if you want to keep the pots going for a few years then give them room to grow their roots and not compete.

If it's too cold for you out there and you really don't fancy gardening then don't worry. By the end of the month the first few flowers will be showing in the garden. There will be the first Narcissus February Gold, Snowdrops and Winter Aconites, the scent of early Viburnum species, Witch Hazel flowers and snow on bamboos. And you thought the Summer was the best time in the garden!

Jobs for the Winter

You can start to put your feet up a little now and perhaps plan what next summer's borders will be like. This is the time for preparation and what better way to shed those excess Christmas pounds than by getting out in the garden and digging a new border.

  • Trees and shrubs - you can still do some pruning and cut back dead wood.
  • Lawns - there's not much you can do but remember to keep the lawn clear of leaves that will smother and kill the grass.
  • Mulch - Mulch your borders and top dress plants in containers.
  • Borders - if you've got a patch in need of some major renovation, dig it over now and let the frost break down the soil and manure for you before Spring planting.
  • Tender plants - keep an eye on tender plants by protecting from frost damage by either bringing into the greenhouse or conservatory or covering with a fleece. This applies to plants such as palms, tree ferns and Agaves.

Andrew can be contacted on 020 8542 0683