Bringing some colour to the winter garden

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SOUTHSEA GREEN: With Irene Strange

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It won’t be long before we decide to plant out the spring flowering plants and, having visited several nurseries and garden centres, I have noticed quite a few people buying these while there are plenty in stock.

The idea is to buy them and look after them as they are, in pots and cells, so that they can be planted when the summer plants have been frosted.

I hasten to add, don’t be in too much of a hurry to dig out the summer plants unless they are looking manky or have been frosted. Remember flowers and foliage keeps the appearance of winter away.

What shall we plant and where? Winter flowering pansies and violas are very successful in sheltered well- drained beds, pots and containers.

The great advantage is that they are in full bloom right now and your favourite colours can be selected.

One of the most popular varieties has the strangest name – Yellow Blotch. I would have thought the breeder could have thought up a better name but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet I seem to recall!

Have a look at Pansy F1 Orange. Plant them five inches apart and choose a wine-coloured variety in between.

If you prefer ‘mixed’, there are small flowering violas in several types of mixed ranging from bold colours to the most feminine pastel shades.

After the surface of the border or container has been forked over a scattering of Vitax Q4 pelleted fertiliser is forked into the top two or three inches. This feed works slowly and will be close to the roots.

Only two ounces per square yard is necessary; don’t overdo it.

During the winter the plants have to contend with all sorts of weather but the effects of rain can be overcome if a generous measure of sharp sand is scattered over the surface of the soil in the border, but it’s good advice for containers too.

The rain splashes the flowers with mud but the sharp sand prevents this problem.

I would like to write about some other spring flowering plants for borders and containers and will do this next week but if you have a herbaceous border with phlox, golden rod and Japanese anemones as the autumn ticks along there will be gaps appearing in the border.

An ideal plant to fill those gaps at this time of year is the Brompton Stocks. These are often grown as annuals but if you have grown them before you will know that they often come up year after year.