Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
THE next few weeks finds us in no man’s land where one day it could be like a summer’s day and the next winter conditions. I like to get outside when I can and do not have to do too much as even pottering around is a great pick me up. On fine days I will get myself involved with more intensive work and on rainy or windy days make plans from inside the comfort of the house.
‘It is one of those facts of nature that cannot be avoided – bulbs must be planted in season which is often many months before they get to flower’
When I write containers I mean any type that can contain plants and that includes pots on the ground, window boxes and hanging baskets. As the summer flowering containers fade we leave the compost in the pots and replant with a selection of winter colourful flowers and foliage. I feel it is important to have some colour near the front door and around the back patio area. The simplest way is to pot up a few containers with a mixture of plants such as violas, painted ladies heathers, cyclamen, primulas, forget me nots, and under plant with a mixture of dwarf bulbs such as tulips, narcissi, scilla, muscari and crocus.
We get many people who have regrets about these bulbs and it is almost entirely about missing the season for planting them. It is one of those facts of nature that cannot be avoided and that is that bulbs must be planted in season which is often many months before they get to flower. My advice to you is to buy them when you see them and without delay plant them or, failing that, put them in a visible place so they are a constant reminder of what to do. If you plant a succession of spring bulbs in variety you can have flowers from January until June and that is six months from these plants alone. Do not plant bulbs singly but in groups of seven upwards.
There are many colourful filler plants that will give you something of interest during the winter months. The colourful heathers called ‘Lovely Ladies’ and similar varieties are bred just for displaying during the winter months in containers. They come in all sorts of colours, including purple, blue and others not ever found in normal plants. These have been either dipped in a colour or otherwise manipulated to produce the exotics shades. After the winter if they are kept in the garden they will just fade to a dull pink.
Planting containers up for the winter is an easy operation. You can leave the compost in that you had for the summer and then select a mixture of plants as mentioned above but in addition you can use other types that can be planted into the garden after the winter. Your choice of plants includes dwarf grasses like the gold and silver Acorus, berried or flowering Skimmia and Gaultheria, winter flowering heathers and trailing ivy.
TIP OF THE WEEK
There is no point in trying to grow some vegetables over winter as the effort will only end in tears. However, you can definitely clean up your plots and if you wish you can soon plant garlic and winter onion sets, which will take root and be ready for an early burst of growth in the spring. Try and use any surplus or windfall apples of any type in cooking, including pies, while those straight from the tree can be eaten fresh. If you have any queries or comments you are welcome to share them with me on 051-384273 or [email protected] and if of general interest I will include it in a future article.