Alan Titchmarsh: Make your garden brighter in the dull months with bright features | Garden | Life & Style - World Big News

Alan Titchmarsh: Make your garden brighter in the dull months with bright features | Garden | Life & Style

In Life & Style


Gardens look their drabbest in winter, but there’s an easy way to give yours a seasonal face-lift – just put together a few pretty pots of shrubs and evergreens.

Creatively speaking, you can pack a punch with very few ingredients. All it takes is a few stylishly planted tubs and troughs placed where they’ll be noticed most. 

Don’t worry about hunting out plants that are rare and expensive, you can be surprisingly artistic with quite ordinary winter shrubs and little evergreens, if you team them together so they bring out the best in each other. 

Winter heathers are all too often dismissed as a bit boring but if you choose a mixture of varieties for orange foliage and red flowers they’ll look brilliant in a large tub around a red-stemmed dogwood.

 Or team a mixture of heathers with gold foliage and white flowers with a yellow-flowered witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis “Pallida”), which blooms prolifically in mild spells between now and spring. For another fetching combination, surround a smallish skimmia or Viburnum tinus (both are evergreens with tight heads of pink buds in winter) with Gaultheria procumbens – a low-creeping shrublet with oval leaves and a heavy crop of red, gobstopper-like berries.

If you have a big enough tub, add a winter box (Sarcococca hookeriana “digyna”) which has rather upright, wand-like stems with long, narrow, elegant paired leaves.

Quite a few people reuse plants that they already own for winter container displays, so you may be able to make it quite eye-catching without splashing out. Potted topiary is ideal – you could use rosemary or ivy trained around a wire shape, or stick to traditional potted pyramids or box balls, or standard lollipop-trained evergreens

Sink your topiary plant – still in its pot – into the centre of a large tub filled with compost and plant winter pansies, red-berried Gaultheria or flowering winter heathers around the base. It gives an old classic a colourful new look.

Look out for interesting varieties of bergenias (the ones with leathery leaves like elephant’s ears). Some take on purplish or bronze tints in winter with mauve-pink flowers to follow in spring. Another useful candidate is the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), which has large, round white flowers that can start opening around Christmas.

You can dream up all sorts of winning combinations from whatever is available – berrying plants, evergreen foliage, buds or flowers, coloured stems and architectural foliage shapes – and you can even cheat and add your own fake flowers, fir cones or artificial fruit.

You can also light up your creation.

Add a short string of fairy lights if the tub is close to a suitable power outlet.

You’d never dream of doing such things in summer when there’s lots of flowers around, but now I reckon it’s worth making the most of everything you can to create a bold cheery splash.