Blog: Lockdown gardening project for beginners…
If the soil in your garden is too waterlogged or frozen to work directly, or if you don’t have a garden, why not plant up some containers with shrubs and bulbs for winter and spring interest?
It’s a quick and easy job that can be done under cover (if the pots are small enough to move) and placed outdoors if the weather’s bad. Bulbs are being reduced now because it’s the end of the planting season – grab a bargain or plant up a pot as a Christmas gift!
A little bit of effort now will pay dividends from now right through to May if you choose your subjects carefully.
I have four very large pots around the seating area that I change each year plus a number of smaller pots that usually house tulips.
Picking your centrepiece plants
On trips to The Alnwick Garden and my local garden centre, I bought the four centrepieces for the pots (more about them here and what they do):
- Phormium Platt’s Black
- Phormium Maori Sunrise
- Sarcococca (Sweet box)
- Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn
Make sure you choose a central plant that gives you plenty of interest from now to May, so avoid deciduous shrubs and herbaceous perennials (plants that drop their leaves or die back to the ground in winter).
- Evergreens and berries (hollies, Pyracantha, Photinia)
- Textured or coloured bark (dogwoods, maples)
- Evergreen grasses (Blue Fescue Grass, Carex Evergold)
- Architectural or interesting shapes (clumping bamboo – Fargesia, Fatsia japonica, topiary, Phormiums)
- Plants that flower during winter or early spring, especially with perfume (Sarcococca, Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn, witch hazel)
Choosing your bulbs for the longest display
Try to layer your bulbs in containers so they flower at different times and give you the most interest. At the end of the season, you can dig them out ‘in the green’ (in leaf) and plant them elsewhere in the garden so you have room for summer-flowering annuals.
My selection this year ( a white/blue/yellow/purple theme):
Winter aconites (Eranthus hyemalis): Small golden yellow flowers held against attractive green foliage. Height 8cm. Flowers January-February.
Iris reticulata Alida: Sky blue iris with intricate white and yellow markings on each petal. Height 15cm. Naturalises well if undisturbed. Flowers January-February.
Single snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis): Traditional small snowdrops with honey-scented nodding white/green flower heads on grey-green 10-12cm stems. Flowers February-March.
Free mixed daffodils: All planted together in a spare pot! Flowers March-April.
Tulip Golden Apeldoorn: A brilliant yellow Darwin tulip, very long-lasting and will look good for years, unlike many tulips. Height 60cm. Flowers April-May.
Tulip Purple Dream: This fluted tulip with reflexed flowers has a slender, goblet-shaped profile at first. However, the lavender-purple blooms open out to reveal a white eye. Height 50cm. Flowers April-May.
How to plant up your pots
Place your main plant first – in the centre if it will be seen from all sides, or to the back if it’s been viewed from one angle.
Then fill around with your deepest bulbs (the biggest, such as daffodils and tulips). Cover these then add a layer of the smaller varieties, like iris, snowdrops or winter aconites, all the time making sure they’re at the depth instructed on the packet.
Don’t worry too much about watering them in if the weather’s as wet as it has been and they won’t need extra feeding at this time of year. Once bulbs have flowered they need general fertiliser to build them up for next year’s blooms.
Happy planting and enjoy the fresh air!