If bold colour and texture appeal to you, then consider planting dozens of these flamboyant, ornamental members of the cabbage family. They are anchor tenants in city council plantings around the country due to their durability and long lifespan. Varying shades of cream, white, pale pink, red and purple, and pretty two-toned and frilly types are available, so there is bound to be a colour and tone to your taste. Suited to both sun and shade, they are good options for patio tubs, planters and garden beds.
Pansies & violas
With their painted faces and expansive colour range, these wee gems thrive in the coldest months. Choose either mixed colours or types to create a tapestry of colour, or go for monotones for a commanding riot of colour. Violas are good options for hanging baskets and window boxes as they are smaller and more compact, whereas pansies quickly fill containers and tubs. Both are happy in full sun to part shade. Deadheading pansies will speed up the reflowering.
Polyanthus & primulas
What’s not to love about these gems? Several stems of pretty flowers appear from the centre of rich, dark green leaves right through winter until the end of spring. These, too, are perfect for tubs and planters, and they do look a picture planted out en masse as well. Try mixing these with a few pansies and violas for a combination planting, putting the polys and the primulas in the centre as they are slightly taller. And if you have any bulbs like hyacinths left over, plug them underneath.
Bellis – Perennial daisy
These look like the daisies you find in the lawn, because they are related. However, flowering Bellis sp. are bred to do just that, flower, with big, full stems of blooms. They come in bright shades of red, carmine, hot pink, soft pink and white. Try these in the vegetable garden: the bees love them and the petals are edible. They are slowgrowing, so space them a handwidth apart and feed the soil before you put them in. They are ideal options for window boxes and baskets. They need full sun, although they will cope with a smidge of shade.
- Plant plenty
Growth is slower now, so you can cram a few more plants into one area; not only does it look better, it also keeps the weeds away.
- Feed the soil
Sprinkling round some flower booster or dried blood will really promote a quicker and longer flowering period, especially for polys, pansies, cinerarias and violas.
- Choose the biggest plants you can afford
I choose potted colour every time; these are just more advanced plants than those you get in punnets.
- Plant plenty
Cineraria 'Silver Dust'
For foliage lovers, perennial Jacobaea maritima ‘Silver Dust’ really comes into its own in winter. The bright silvery-white leaves provide amazing contrast to anything planted nearby, and what’s even better is that the foliage is amazing when picked and placed in a vase, holding its form and shape for two to three weeks. Best planted in sun, this plant is ideal for planters and tubs and quickly fills gaps in raised beds and barrels.
This neat annual carpeting daisy looks like it would not stand up to the test of the cold months, but it does, and admirably so. It, too, readily self-seeds, and is a wonderful winter option to provide carpets of colour under roses or in the vegetable garden if it’s bare. It tucks neatly into baskets and troughs, but isn’t a fan of shade, so give it plenty of sun.
Masses of dainty flowers smother the annual forgetme- not. Coming in shades of pink, white and the traditional blue, these little gems thrive in both full sun and shade. They hardly need any depth of soil to grow, which means they can grow in places many other plants cannot. They will readily self-seed after flowering, but you may find the new seedlings have a different flower colour to the original plants.
For those of you in warmer regions where frost doesn’t settle on the ground, a vibrant flowering option is flowering cinerarias. These compact ‘powerhouses’ form domes of flowers; colours vary greatly from pastel pink, mauve, cream and white, to the bold, bright, intense blue and purple, through to bold carmine and plum shades. Happy in sun or shade, they can also grow in colder regions, and indoors as well.