Article by Jillian Coomb, Horticulturist
Colour your Winter space with Jill’s choice of flowering pretties.
In winter, who could go past potted colour for impact in your garden, baskets, balcony or window boxes? I am a sucker for pansies, viola, marigolds, calendula and nasturtium. Beautiful flowers plus being edible, what more could you want? I remember freezing ice cubes with viola flower in water for my children’s drinks. Ice cubes can be added to wines and even the odd spirit drink. Remember the snapdragons you used to pretend were talking when you played with the single flowers, or the sunflowers that follow the sun across the sky? So many to choose from that bring back memories from my childhood and that of my children.
Poppies, primula, phlox, dianthus, stock and sweet pea are staples in most winter gardens for their brilliance and ease. I know you are all thinking of the dozens of others that we all rush out to plant as soon as the weather allows. Petunias, impatiens and geraniums should not be forgotten. I still plant up my colour every season and even had some of my pansies from last year only finish flowering at the start of autumn. My balconies are awash with colour and people in my town comment on them and this drives me to achieve even more colour.
In cooler locations, foxglove, delphinium, hollyhocks and cineraria would be overflowing in gardens. Dahlias and ranunculi can be peppered through the staples of zinnia, portulaca and gomphrena.
I have no set colour scheme but to create a focal point, I use colours from the opposite end of the colour wheel, purple and yellow or blue and orange. The riot of opposite colours diverts visitors eyes from my clothesline and bathroom window.
I buy trays and trays of seedlings at the start of each season, but especially winter. If I cannot get my colour through flowers then it is the leaves that steal the show, such as, kale, coleus and amaranthus.
Now we have chosen our glorious colours, we turn to how to get the most out of them. Preparation is the key to success. If they are going into the ground, prepare the soil by rejuvenating it with a good organic matter which nourishes the plants while it improves the soil. A regular in my garden regime is 5 in 1 Organic Fertiliser, turned into the beds when preparing the area. Once planted they are mulched and, on the day of planting, a good drenching with Searles SeaMax Fish and Kelp which is followed up every fortnight. For baskets or pots, where I do not want fertiliser aroma on a regular basis, I tend to use Searles Flourish Flower & Foliage after the initial watering in of SeaMax. All are indulged with Searles Robust as a controlled release, think of it as a main meal and the Flourish or SeaMax as dessert. Dessert may not keep you alive, but always makes you happy and it shows.
For my terracotta pots and baskets, I use a potting mix with extra peat moss to hold more moisture such as Searles Platinum Potting Mix formula. Again, all my little darlings will be drenched with SeaMax when planted to rapidly improve their start. For my angels that keep going longer, Searles Recharge Pots & Garden is sprinkled to revitalize the soil as it is a wetting agent, quick-release fertiliser and controlled release fertiliser all in one.
A formula is used to combine baskets and pots displays. For larger displays, I start with a gorgeous centre feature, say geranium, then add something flowing over the side, perhaps Dichondra Silver Falls, and lastly to fill the gaps possibly alyssum or lobelia. They can be smothered out when all the rest grow but look lovely until then. There you have it, a thriller, spiller and filler. In smaller pots, the fillers are not added, and if the pot is smaller still or a pot can stand on its own, then one variety is planted. I have found cascading petunia, trailing viola and lobelia wonderful spillers.
Many will look at my yard and think it is too busy or too colourful, but everyone’s garden is distinct. In some seasons my choice of plants is limited, but I will always have plenty of winter colour to choose from. If you want a more comprehensive Winter planting guide on what to plant in your climatic zone.
This must be one of the happiest seasons to garden, so now is the time to get planting.