As the first frosts of Autumn 2011 hit here Surrey, i'm feeling organised, as the winter planters that will replace the frosted bedding are already planted.
I think that winter planters are more important than summer ones for brightening up the fronts of houses and shops. During the summer, there is plenty of colour in the garden, but in winter, there are a lot of bare stems and patches of earth, so finding colour in tubs and baskets is important.
Saying that, one thing you need to realise when buying winter bedding is that even the hardiest of pansies and primulas will be green in December when the light levels fall so low that flowers find it hard to appear. This means that using coloured foliage is very important. However as soon as the sun comes out again in late January or February the buds will form for the spring blooms.
When i'm planning my pots and baskets, i'm trying to make sure that there are layers of interest and colour, and i've found that this is easiest when working on a colour theme. These troughs are for a coffee shop, and we're working on a deep red, white and silver foliage theme.
The first layer is for the later flowers, - Tulips for April flowering, so that this planter can take us right through to the summer of 2012. The varieties i've chosen are Uncle Tom and double Red Riding hood, - both deep reds.
The next layer, is white Crocus for February, and Thalia Daffodils for late March into April. Then on top, but making sure they are not too deep into the pot so they can trail, but not too near the rim, so that they can be watered, there are coloured ivies (Hardy Hedera Helix) Red pansies, Cyclamen and white lavender (for scented silver foliage). The cyclamen won't make it all the way through the winter, even in a sheltered spot, but give an extra colour boost now.
When all the plants are in, i've packed compost tightly round each root ball, to make sure there are no air pockets. The plants will get frozen over the winter, but if they have soil tucked round every rootball, so they have a comforting duvet and a way of transferring water to them, they won't dry out, and will thaw effectively after each frost.
So the trough is ready and waiting in the sunshine, to brighten up cafe visitors this winter, and into next spring.