Containers are not just for summer flowers; displays for autumn and winter often last longer and help brighten up these cold, dark months when viewed from the warmth of your kitchen or living room. Make sure that the pot you buy can withstand low winter temperatures—frost proof clay pots tend to be more expensive but should come with a guarantee and last for many years.
When to plant: Early autumn.
At their best: All year round.
Time to complete: 1½ hours.
You will need: Large frostproof container – at least 18 in (45 cm) deep and wide, broken clay pot or plastic pieces, soil-based potting mix, mulching material, all-purpose granular fertilizer.
Selection of plants you could use: Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’, Juniperus ‘Grey Owl’, Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’, Erica arborea var. alpine, ‘Albert’s Gold’
Prepare the pot
Add some broken clay pot or plastic pieces to the bottom of the container, and cover them with a layer of soil-based potting mix. Set the plants, still in their original pots, on the potting mix and check that they will sit about 2 in (5 cm) below the rim when planted. Keep them in the container, and start to fill in around them with potting mix.
Slide the plants out
Pack damp potting mix around all the pots up to their rims—only one is shown here, but the method works equally well with a few plants. Carefully slide out the plants in their pots, to leave spaces for planting.
Tip plants out of their pots
Water all the plants well before tipping them out of their plastic pots. If the roots are congested, gently
tease them out. Carefully replace them in their positions in the container, and then firm more compost into any remaining gaps.
Add a mulch
Add a layer of gravel, slate chips, or other decorative mulch over the soil. Water the container well and set it on “feet” to allow the winter rains to drain through easily. Place it where you can see it easily from the house, and continue to water it during the autumn and winter if the soil under the mulch feels dry.
Tips: annual care
The container will need watering frequently in the spring and summer. Each year in early spring, remove the mulch and top few inches of potting mix and replace it with fresh compost mixed with some all-purpose granular fertilizer. Water immediately after this, and then renew the mulch. When the plants become congested, plant them out in the garden or move to larger containers.