Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Don't give up on colour

 Gardening with Clive Sullivan of Cameron Landscapes and Ballylesson Garden Centre

WINDOW boxes and containers can be as attractive in winter as in high summer.

They may lack the vivid colours of fuchsias, petunias and other summer flowering basket plants, but the weaker sunshine and lower light levels make the subtler colours of winter foliage and flowers shine giving a splash of colour where it's needed.

There are bulbs, too, which will add to the burst of colour long before spring brings life to the borders, so when you strip out your summer displays, instead of leaving the window box empty, think of winter planting.

Since foliage will be needed to make up the bulk of the display, evergreens are important. Some of these can stay in the boxes all year.

Ivy, in almost any of its variegated forms, will make attractive garlands to trail over the sides. Plant among these, winter flowering pansies and crocus, snowdrops, aconites and dwarf narcissi. The bigger and brasher the better. Add a primrose or two, just for good measure.

As autumn winds and rain take their toll, mixed and herbaceous borders are beginning to look a little dishevelled but try to resist the temptation to cut them back and tidy them up too much. Herbaceous plants, as they decline and die back, can look attractive especially on a frosty morning in slanting sunshine.

Some plants including hostas, alliums and euphorbias will turn brilliant gold before dying, helping to make a fine autumnal display.

Wildlife will benefit from this too as well as sheltering many species, including hibernating hedgehogs. Dying perennials carry insects and seeds which will feed many small birds.