In mid-winter when gardens can look a bit bleak, pots designed for winter interest are an excellent way of bringing colour near to the house, so that you can appreciate the blooms and scent close up.
When designing a pot, first consider including an evergreen structure such as small shrubs like Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’, hebes, yew balls or sarcococca for scent. Foliage plants such as fatsia or delicate dwarf Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ will also create structure. Larger planters may be big enough for a small tree such as a lollipop bay or multi-stemmed osmanthus.
For colour you can’t beat pretty winter-flowering viola or pansy. Tough but delicate, these look great en masse in a bowl or as a filler in a window box, pot with spring bulbs or underplanting a shrub. Viola cornuta ‘Phantom’ is a delicate purple scented viola for partial shade in winter and spring. Snip off faded flowers to keep the colour coming.
Hellebores are also wonderful in pots, by the front or back door, or near a window. Helleborus ‘Silver Dollar’ has attractive foliage and tall varieties include Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’ which has masses of large plum-coloured flowers - pretty underplanted with snowdrops. Hellebores need quite a large pot for their root system plus space for other plants such as trailing ivy or Meuhlenbeckia complexa, evergreen carex or ophiopogon, spring bulbs or plants such as geraniums for summer interest.
Heather and cyclamens are another classic combination for winter – pink heather and white cyclamen have a sugary winter prettiness and work well with silvery foliage of Senecio cineraria or Festuca glauca. Keep things simple, choosing just two or three colours that harmonise or adding a contrasting accent to liven things up. But pots are a good way to experiment with colour – so above all, have fun!