Brian Kidd with some container ideas to put a spring in your step

Instant spring colour in a container
Instant spring colour in a container
Councillor Gwen Blackett alongside the tree planted in her name.

Picture: Sarah Standing

Havant’s longest-serving councillor is honoured with a tree for 43 years of service

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Maybe you need cheering up. It’s still cold but there are some lovely things in flower in the garden at the moment.

But what about a bit of instant colour in a container near the house?

A large one is more attractive than one which is too small and you’ll get more plants in too.

Instead of buying one, you might already have something which will do the trick.

A large pot, an old box, anything which will not look ugly will do, but it is essential to ensure there are plenty of holes in the base to allow excess water to escape.

Cover the holes with pieces of broken clay pot. These are called crocks and allow water to escape but keep the compost from draining through the holes.

The best compost is John Innes No3, the strongest available.

Fill the planter to within four inches of the top to allow space for the plants. This also means there will be enough depth to take the size of each root ball.

A visit to the garden centre will be a treat as they are geared up to encourage you to buy things which are in bloom. There are coloured primroses, polyanthus, winter-flowering pansies, primula denticulata and lots of bulbs and corms such as narcissus, hyacinths, baby iris and anemone blanda.

You’ll probably choose a few plants which will last for weeks to fill the gap between now and the middle of May when summer plants replace those mentioned here.

What shall we choose? Winter-flowering pansies will be fine, but if you look carefully there are varieties which will last until summer. These have much larger flowers than the winter ones.

Polyanthus and primroses should provide a few weeks’ colour if you choose those with a flower on the top and lots of buds still to come. They will be tucked beneath the foliage.

Both will look good immediately with potted tulips, but remember if tulips are in full bloom, they will only be so for another fortnight.

Avoid ‘mixed’. Use your imagination and try contrasting colours. When deciding, pick the colours you love best and sniff to find those more fragrant than others. Yellow looks brilliant with red; blue looks great against white or gold; black tulips are brilliant with yellow.

It isn’t as difficult as people imagine to get the right number of plants, but it usually means buying two more than you wanted. So here’s what to do.

Before going shopping, measure the container. At the shop, take the plants off the display and put them together on the floor so the leaves just touch. This is how they will be planted for instant effect. It’s pointless spacing them too far apart. After all we are only talking about a container, we only need a few plants and you deserve a treat.

The assistants at the garden centre won’t mind a bit and you will see other people doing the same.

Keep the container away from the wall. This will stop vine weevil from climbing up the wall to gain access to the compost where they lay eggs which turn into grubs which are responsible for eating the plant roots.

Put a band of Trappit glue (Keydell) around the middle of the container. This will trap the weevils as they try to climb up the outside of the container.

If it’s an old wheelbarrow, put it on the parts that touch the ground.

When the spring flowering instant colour has gone over, don’t change the compost. It will be fine for the next crop of flowers which bloom in the summer, after which always replenish the compost during mid-May before planting the summer flowers next time.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Everyone has forsythia. All the wood which has finished flowering should be pruned off. Take a large branch and pull it to you. Near the base there should be a strong shoot without side shoots. This branch is pruned to that strong shoot. Now pull back another and do exactly the same. Repeat right round the shrub. The result will be new shoots which will flower in 11 months.