Unlike border and fruit and veg bed plants, which are more protected by warmer ground soil, your poor old pots will begin to feel a little exposed to the elements at this time of year, and will need some extra protection.
You may have tended to some of your more delicate pots in autumn, but in mid-winter even the hardiest of plants can succumb if the compost they’re in freezes.
While snow can actually act as a surface insulator from the cold, frost will creep in and kill off many plants. It’s best to move some of your pots into a frost-free greenhouse, indoors to your conservatory, or into a more sheltered spot, by a hedge or wall, for example. For pots that are just too heavy, leave them be, but keep an eye on them and, if severe weather is forecast, take steps to help them through it.
For your prized plants, invest in some bubble wrap and horticultural fleece which will keep the air around them warmer. You may need several layers if a biting frost is on its way!
Drawstring fleece bags from all good garden centres make the job an easy one. Tying cordyline or phormium leaves loosely together in really cold snaps, or bushy plant stems that are a bit twiggy, gives foliage safety together in numbers and makes them easier to cover.
Place ceramic pot feet under vulnerable pots to keep them free draining, and if you use saucers remove these so they’re not standing in the wet. Make sure you unravel all your pots’ winter clothing as soon as the weather warms up, so they have access to fresher air and the light.
You can minimise cold damage to your pots in the first place by leaving old flower stems, such as hydrangeas, on the plant – they add lovely winter structure to the garden, as well as protecting stems underneath from frost.
Also don’t feed your plants, as any new growth this encourages will be vulnerable. Shrubs with variegated or lighter leaves tend to be more tender too, so planting fewer of these will save you from too much work.
And lastly, don’t forget to keep watering potted plants sporadically in dry spells, particularly active conifers – it’s not just summer heatwaves that bring dry weather!
EVERY DAY: Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’
A good-value deciduous shrub, as it has white flowers in spring, followed by white berries, and then glorious bare stems of lime green in winter.
EXTRA SPECIAL: Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’
So named for its eye-popping, fiery orange-red bare winter stems, which will light up your winter garden handsomely.
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