Make your garden a winter wonderland with flowering baskets
2:02pm Saturday 19th October 2013 in News
The summer may be over but the life in your garden needn't be, as winter baskets come in to bloom this season. Sophie Brownson reports.
The leaves may be falling off the trees and the weather is cold outside but don’t be put off from getting your fingers green and making yourself a winter basket or two.
Sure to brighten your garden and lift your mood with a bit of extra care, your garden can be full of winter wonders such as pansies, ornamental sage, ivy, and winter heather.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommends that budding gardeners plant their winter hanging baskets between September and October, with these hardy plants that can resist the seasonal frost.
Or for those who like to plant ahead, long-lasting perennial hanging basket can be planted from April onwards, depending on the types of plants being used.
To get started the RHS recommends that standard wire baskets should be lined with readymade cardboard liners and fibrous materials.
Or for those who like a thrifty option a top tip is to use moss from the lawn and go au naturel.
You should aim to cover the inside with about a 1.5cm (½in) thick layer of the material and then half fill the basket with multi-purpose compost.
But for a long-lasting arrangement, experts recommend using John Innes No 2 or for those wanting to grow winter flowering heathers, it is best to go for ericaeous compost.
Aim to keep the compost moist but not soggy, and avoid wetting the foliage and flowers.
Next the plants can be arranged in the basket, it is usually easiest to start with one central plant to create structure and impact.
Position some trailing plants to cover the sides of the basket, particularly if it is made from wire and choose the colours of the flowering plants carefully to make the basket colour coordinated.
The RHS recommends reliable plants such as winter-flowering pansies, petunias, lobelia and geraniums.
Once all the plants are in, fill around the rootballs carefully with more compost and push in some controlled-release fertiliser pellets or plugs at this stage, and then water well, feeding weekly with liquid fertiliser.
Winter hanging baskets are best kept in a sheltered, sunny spot to give it some protection in the coldest weather.
This can be done by using either a layer of fleece, or sit the basket on a bucket in a cool greenhouse for just the worst days
Gardeners must also ensure that the flowers are deadheaded regularly to prevent the plants’ energy going into seed production, rather than more flowers.
Anna Jones, of Usk garden centre, said: “Winter baskets are quite low maintenance.
“You only need to water them once a week, unless it’s icy and they don’t need to be soaked in water.
“There is a range of plants that can be used as the centre piece of any winter basket.
“Put drafted conifer around the edges and also use variegated ivy.
“Winter flowering pansies, violas, and winter heathers, along with gaultheria-a small evergreen with red berries is also very attractive.
“Polyanthus, and dwarf daffodils can placed around the outside.
“Basically when February comes around the bulbs come up and the heathers come into flower.
“Winter baskets are great because they will last right though until the summer.
“There are two different types of baskets that you can use –a solid plastic or wicker basket is the easiest to do.”