Cyclamen are perfect for the winter as they require little light and not much maintenance; they can survive for many years in the garden
WE have not yet had frost in our garden and may not get any for another couple of weeks. Nonetheless, we are seeing the effects of less sunlight and more wind and rain. If you have any hanging baskets, window boxes or containers they may be looking a bit drab after the summer.
Now is a great time to spruce up all of your outside plant containers. There are several plants which actually perform better when the light levels fall. These plants are especially grown and sold this time of year. In addition, there are winter and spring flowering bulbs which can flower from January until May.
Cyclamen add great splashes of colour in the autumn and early winter. They grow from something like a bulb called a corm. These ‘bulbs’ can be bought and planted but you are better off to buy potted plants. Cyclamen are available in a variety of colours from white through to cerise pink. Because cyclamen grow from bulbs they actually survive from year to year. Once they have died down you can dig up the bulbs and plant them in another part of the garden. They may then flower again the next year. Cyclamen can live for many years by themselves in gardens.
Wallflowers are taller plants than cyclamen so they would be better being planted in containers or at the back of a border. Wallflowers are usually grown from seed. You can grow these from seed at home if you wish – remembering to plant the seeds in May. If you are buying grown plants you should be looking for plants with lots of fresh green growth and lots of un-opened flower buds. Generally, wallflowers flower in late winter or early spring. They will continue to flower as the weather improves and warms up in the spring.
Winter Flowering Pansy
These differ from summer flowering pansies in that they flower at different times of the year (obviously). The winter pansies actually react to less light levels and falling temperatures. During any sunny days over winter the flower buds will open. I find that often the pansies get a bit leggy towards the spring. If this happens to you, you can simply cut them back by half. These will then re-shoot and be more bushy.
Spring Flowering Bulbs
Not all spring flowering bulbs are suitable for window boxes or hanging baskets. If choosing narcissus choose a dwarf or rockery variety. These only grow to a maximum of 12 inches.
Also suitable for containers and hanging baskets are all types of crocus.
Ivy is used in window baskets and containers to add some consistency. This is more the case if you choose a variegated type of Ivy. Try also go get a small-leaved type. The idea is that the ivy will grow and trail over the edge of the containers and hanging baskets. In the spring you can remove the ivy and plant it to tumble over a rockery or up a wall.