As you might expect, Petersham Nurseries does winter rather well, seamlessly sailing through the bleak season without any of the bald patches from which we mere mortals seem to suffer.
Of course, this is partly to do with their gorgeous stock and legions of staff to make things gorgeous, but that’s not the whole story. There are some very simple hacks they’ve employed to keep things lovely with minimum upkeep. Here are their tricks:
Go big or go home
Everything here is on a grand scale. It’s a very good idea, especially if you are time-poor, as it creates instant impact with very little work over the summer months in terms of watering. Paperwhite narcissi here are crammed into a gigantic urn; the bulb fibre covered with moss and sticks plunged around the edge to keep things from flopping. It’s a classic idea but on a big scale, and it would work even in a small room. Use an urn, and you have an instant layering effect, with the added bonus of not having sacrificed any table space.
2. Use erigeron everywhere.
You’ll have heard me go on about this plant enough, but seriously, let me tell you one more time about the wonders of this Erigeron Karvinskianus. Not only does it soften and relax every hard corner or line, and self-sow itself politely around into the tiniest cracks and crevices, it will also cover up a multitude of sins (bareness really) at the base of any permanent planting. But most of all, it will continue flowering pretty much all year round, so whilst your deciduous shrub languishes in its twiggy bareness over the winter, this little darling will give you something lovely to look at.
3. Use muehlenbeckia everywhere else
Rather lesser-known (and unfairly vilified as something which can be invasive), this gorgeous thing is an absolute blessing as long as you keep it in a container, doing very much what the erigeron does - softening and beautifying, only with a trailing effect rather than a flower. Put it in a pot with absolutely anything; it will make your bare viburnum gorgeous and it will even make plants that don’t look so lovely on their own, like heather (see below) unspeakably chic.
4. Put ferns in a gigantic pot
…an urn, or other GINORMOUS container. Whatever it is, it must have height, to elevate the fronds…it’s something to do with balance. This is also an illustration of the Go Big or Go Home trick, but also, ferns are the great unsung container plant hero and we should all be using much more of them on our patios and terraces. This one above is an indoor affair, but there are plenty of excellent evergreen ferns which, given the right treatment will flourish in containers outside. Blog post on which ones to use coming soon.
5. Plant the pants off all the hellebores you can afford
Deadly pretty, perfect container plants that you can put into the ground if you get bored with them. I’ve been making a large container up with one, the recipe for which I’ll be sharing on my newsletter which drops at the weekend….It contains a rather more personal run-down of all my five minute forays in the garden during the week - sign up here if you’d like it, and never fear, if you don’t like it…(and it’s not for everyone I admit) then you can unsubscribe any time.