Mount Folly Nurseries

How to make nice winter baskets and tubs

By using these simple tips you can have a lovely splash of colour throughout the winter months. Depending on your taste you can mix up colours, height, trailing plants and make them as busy/vivacious or simple/elegant as you like. A nice mix of some trailing, some upright and some bedding plants, with a couple of bulbs for an early spring boost is always nice.

Your winter garden does not need to be colourless and lifeless!

  1. Get yourself a tub, pot or hanging basket
  2. Add some drainage to the bottom such as broken crockery or shingle – this will ensure that excess water (which we have a lot of in winter!) drains away quickly and your plants do not become waterlogged.
  3. Add general purpose compost to fill your tub or pot two thirds of the way up.
  4. Add a 2 or 3 of spring flowering bulbs such as Hyacinths or tulips, and cover those with a layer of compost.
  5. Add 3 or 4 narcissi bulbs and cover with a layer of compost (a combination we personally like is one white hyacinth, two red tulips, and 3 or 4 Tete-A-Tete narcissi or similar – you can always add a couple of snow drops for a very early spring boost to your baskets). Don’t overcrowd them – if they look crowded in the pot then take some out.
  6. Now you can start to plant up the top plants – add enough compost so you can sit the plants comfortably at the right height for your pot or basket. Put something that will grow upright and slightly taller in the middle, such as Polyanthus, dianthus. I would recommend polyanthus for baskets and dianthus for pots – any other upright hardy perennial can be used too, (Dianthus and Lavender are lovely together in pots!). Add a cyclamen or two, and a trailing plant or two such as Saponaria / Ajuga / Aubrita / Ivy / Vinca Major Varigata / Phlox around the edge. Fill any big gaps left with a couple of bedding plants such as pansies or violas.
  7. At this point You can add a couple of slow release fertiliser pellets (osmocote – one plug per 2 litres of compost, so for a 10 litre tub you will need 5), but you may wish to top up with a liquid feed occasionally too, as osmocote releases according to the temperature, so will not work as vigorously as it does in the summer – this does mean it lasts longer though, so always worth including it in any tub or basket.
  8. Fill in any additional compost needed.
  9. Water in with a good soak so you flood the pot, then allow to drain – this ensures that all the air pockets around the roots will be filled in, and avoids unnecessary damage to the fibrous roots on your lovely healthy plants.

Winter Basket & Tub Planter Tips!

Planting:  Use your common sense, and don’t overcrowd – the plants want to look like they’ve got company when you’ve finished but not crowded, so they’ve got some space to grow. In the spring you can take your upright and trailing perennials and transfer them to your garden beds to make room for your summer plants, or simply update the seasonal bedding with something summery.  Any additional bulbs left over can be put in the garden.

Choose bulbs according to when they flower, and try to mix them up so you have something coming  new through in February, March and April. This information will be on the packet.

Feeding: When we have a few dry weeks in the winter, as we do occasionally, top up your tubs and baskets with a liquid feed high in phosphates such as a regular tomato feed. If your plants start to look a bit yellow and sick it means they’re probably hungry. 

Bugs and fungus: Use a multi purpose, systemic insecticide and fungicide such as multi rose – give it one good soak when you plant it, then treat again if you see any damage on the plants.

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