Who doesn’t love a beautifully-planted festive pot by the front door? And surely we need the pleasure of that this year more than ever. So much classier than a flashing Santa on the front lawn (if you know what I mean) and kinder on the neighbours who live opposite.
Your first task is to decide what sort of impact you want your pot to have – full-on yuletide colour and bling, perhaps, or something subtler and softer? We’ve compiled a Top 10 of our favourite plants to cheer us at Christmas, which may help you decide………………
- Male fern – Dryopteris felix-mas
My plan is for a pot of plants in green, white and silver. Think Cottage Garden meets Contemporary Edge. If you’re planting up a pot with a selection of things, always start with the biggest plant, and in this case, I would start with a beautiful fern like this. There are plenty of fancier ferns that you might prefer, but this lovely native is just what I want to give my pot a bit of height without weight – its fronds will provide a sort of soft architecture. These fronds will get tattier as the winter wears on, but that’s fine – I’ll pop the plant back in a shady garden corner, trim off the scruffy bits and off it will go again next spring.
2. Christmas rose – Helleborus niger
Yes, yes, I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but the flowers of this hellebore are so ridiculously pretty whether they’re in bud, creamy-white or pale green. I can almost FEEL Laura huffing at the ‘common-ness’ of Christmas ‘roses’, but it’s the perfect plant for my proposed pot of pale, silvery gorgeousness. And I’m not the only fan – to quote from Louises’ fabulous book – have you got yours yet? – ‘We’re not far off the shortest day and for me, there is no plant quite so plucky as Helleborus niger, and there is no better place for it than in a pot by the front door. You will be enthralled long after the Christmas decorations have come down (p.111 – there is a link to the book at the end of the post).
I have never been able to persuade the Helleborus niger plants in my own garden to flower as early as Christmas, but it’s a good excuse to buy one in flower from a garden centre and then plant out into the garden to flower in Jan/Feb the following winter.
3. Ficinia truncata ‘Ice Crystal’
To go with my hellebore, I want some sparkling evergreen foliage, and this is a low-growing sedge with deliciously striking silvery edges to the edges of the dainty leaves. It’s not a plant that takes kindly to bitter weather despite its ‘frosty’ appearance, so give it the protection of a sunny porch or cool conservatory through the coldest months.
4. White cyclamen
Back to something more usual and easy to source. Tucking white-flowering cyclamen in to spaces at the front of your pot will give you delightful long-lasting flower-power reflected in its delicately- marbled leaves.
Now what’s the betting that Laura will recommend some plants to you that are harder to find than a dull Strictly outfit, and Caroline may already have bought a flashing Santa……………..
Eeek! Elaine’s childhood ballet dancing seems to have re-surfaced this week and she’s gone all Swan Lake on us. Wafting ferns, frosted sedges and ice white cyclamen. My perfect Christmas pot would be something much beefier and the centre piece would have to be;
5. Camellia ‘Yuletide’.
Yes it’s a bit pricey, but this camellia will live its first five years quite happily in a pot, so think of it as an investment. It gets its early flowering trait from one its parents, the autumn flowering Camellia sasanqua and its toughness from the other, Camellia japonica. Its dark glossy foliage and single pillar box red waxy flowers with yellow stamens simply scream Christmas.
6. Wintergreen – Gaultheria procumbens
Personally I don’t trust those sweet little cyclamen you can buy all over the place at this time of the year. Like the ubiquitous poinsettia they are the result of production horticulture in industrial size glasshouses and you will love them for the first week, until the inevitable wilt and mildew sets it. I would go instead for this tough little nut, properly hardy and just the right colour scheme.
7. Harts tongue fern – Asplenium scolopendrium.
Native ferns was not a bad shout from Elaine but my choice would be this shiny little specimen, whose fronds still look very respectable at Christmas. Mine is the rare crested form (obvs).
8. Coloured stemmed dogwood – Cornus ‘Annie’s Winter Orange’
Dogwoods like this would struggle to be happy in a pot for any length of time so the trick is to have clump in the garden somewhere that you can raid just before Christmas to use for the finishing touches for your winter pot.
As you can see from our feature photo, my pot gives you more like an aria from Carmen than a performance of Swan Lake. Caroline’s offering will likely look more at home in a Willy Wonka musical……………………
Ferns? Dogwoods? Anyone feeling Christmassy? No I thought not. Personally I’ve never wanted to ‘Deck the Halls with boughs of Asplenium’. We want green shiny leaves and red berries – basically the horticultural equivalent of an elf, don’t we? Look no further than a skimmia. It gives you everything a small holly would without the latter’s glacial rate of growth or its tiresome prickles. Perfect for a winter pot (and then over-summer in a bed). You’ll find them in peak condition in Dobbies right now – you know you can trust me on such things.
10. Ornamental cabbage
And finally, if you say you’re not a winter person, you have surely never experienced an ornamental cabbage. I discovered them two years ago since when my festive tubs have been the envy of the village. In brilliant purples and creams the cabbages glow, yes glow, from November through to March with stout cheerfulness and a helpfully low centre of gravity that defies my Caledonian wind issues.
People of taste like Alan Titchmarsh recommend you plant them on their own in a pot (Laura has a similarly lofty approach) but I cram them in with my hellebores (six for £3 in Lidls – sorry all integrity now fully abandoned) and, I suspect worse still, dwarf hebes that always look neat and robust. Say what you will – they’ve made my winter pot arrangements look a trillion times warmer and more vibrant. Follow my advice – give yourself a lift, get yourself a cabbage.
Just the name of Louise’s plant of the moment gives me a lift too, check it out in the box below ….
NB: You can order a copy of Louise Sims’ beautifully produced new book ‘A Plant for Each Week of the Year’ here, at a lower cost than it’s selling on Amazon!
More NB: If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags, just enter your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday