Plants to brighten winter

Plants to brighten winter
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By the middle of February I’m normally pretty fed up of winter. The weather’s grim, it seems to have been going on forever and even though there are glimmers of hope – snowdrops, aconites, catkins – the garden’s still mostly dormant. I just want to hit the magic fast-forward button to spring and see a bit of colour and have some flowers to enjoy!

Luckily, we can speed things up without magic. Head to the garden centre and, even in the middle of February, you’ll find lots of colourful bedding and early-flowering potted bulbs that can be combined to make window boxes and patio pots to gladden the heart.

Winter bedding in containers is usually starting to get tired by now, so whip out anything that looks past its best and leave any plants that are still adding interest such as dwarf conifers, small shrubs such as skimmia, euonymus or heathers and trailing evergreens like ivy that look good for a long time, whatever the weather.

Next fill in the gaps with colourful gems from the garden centre from fresh violas or pansies, to bright primroses, primulas and potted bulbs. You can buy snowdrops, dwarf narcissus (look for varieties with lots of flowers on each stem such as ‘Tête-à-tête’ or ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ shown above), as well as baby blue grape hyacinths, early irises and colourful crocuses, all growing and ready to flower.

Push their rootballs into any free spaces and top up the window box or pot with a little fresh compost before watering everything in. Don’t be afraid to cram plants in close; when they’ve gone over you can take them out and plant them properly in a border, but aim for maximum impact.

For something different, choose fancy varieties such as narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’, a spiky sensation that hardly looks like a daffodil, or an early-flowering tulip such as Tulipa tarda. Hyacinths are another super choice and have a gorgeous fragrance and hellebores look beautiful grown in containers for a season before planting out, perhaps mixed with a grass such as carex for contrast.

MUST-BUY PLANT… Hamamelis

EVERY DAY:  Hamamelis mollis

Most witch hazels have flowers in shades of yellow, all of which are highly scented. These deciduous shrubs also have good autumn leaf colour.

 

EXTRA-SPECIAL: Hamamelis ‘Diane’

A witch hazel with a difference because its scented flowers are a rich, burnt orange colour that glows in winter sunshine and makes a real statement.

 

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