How to plant a container that brightens your mood on the darkest days

 

I've chosen colours and plants that I like and that have a a sensory element to them.  This is a really important consideration for me when  I choose plants as using them to engage my senses really helps me to connect with nature and feel its calming benefits after a full on day.

So first things first, I'll introduce you to all the elements and why I chose them.

First up I have some hyacinth bulbs, this variety is called Gypsy Queen and their flowers are a zingy salmon colour, perfect for injecting some warmth into a grey February day.  So, they but They also have the most wonderfully sweet scent that is carried on the wind and greets you every time you come home.

 peach flambe heuchera, red orange and pink

The first of my plants is this orange/ red Heuchera here called Peach Flambe. Their fiery red/ orange colour is a real treat to your sense of sight and an added bonus is that their leaves can be used in arrangements come spring once everything else starts flowering.

enjoying the sensory elements of uncinia everflame

Now its time to add a grass and this one, Uncinia Everflame feels amazing!  Closing your eyes, running your fingers through the grass focusing on the sensation on your skin and the sound it makes it is a wonderful way to calm an every racing mind should you find yourself feeling anxious or on the verge of a panic attack.   On a particularly windy day the wind will make the leaves rub against each other and create that lovely rustling sound that reminds you there is life in the garden even in the depths of winter.

listening to the bergenia

Continuing the sound and touch theme, next up is Bergenia which adds quite a different sensation to your mini sensory garden from the grass as the leaves are quite leathery.  As you rub your fingers over them or you rub the leaves together, they make a kind of squeaky sound.  I quite like it, but some people say that it makes them cringe (fingernails down a chalk board style).  If you are of the latter persuasion then you might want to avoid the Bergenia!

bright green wispy lemongrass in a black plastic pot

My last element is an edible one!  Introducing lemon grass!  I initially picked it up in the garden centre as I liked the bright green of the leaves and also thought it would add a bit of height to my pot.  The fact that it is edible and has a subtle aroma just adds to the effect.

So how do you go about planting your pot?

Drainage

We get quite a lot of rain in the UK in the winter and you need to make sure that the plants have got good drainage so they're not sat in water.   Make sure you have a hole in the bottom of your pot, if there isn't one you can drill one or some.

Demonstrating the type of pot used for winter planting and also the crocks used to improve drainage.

Then you want to add what are called 'crocks', i'm using some broken pieces of roof tile, but your could use big stones, rubble or even unwanted polystyrene.  The idea is that they sit in the bottom of the pot and prevent the soil from blocking the holes but also that they allow the water to run freely through the bottom part of the pot to prevent your plants from getting waterlogged.

Compost

On top of your crocks you are going to add your compost.  Now, i'm using a bag of peat free compost.  I could launch into a whole shebang about why using peat free compost is so important for the environment, but that is a whole other blog post in itself, plus its Tuesday night and my dinner is nearly ready :)

Fill your pot about 3/4 of the way up with compost, leaving enough space that your plants can sit on top of the compost and the top of the soil around your plants will still be 5cm below the top edge of the pot.

Money saving tip for perennials

The vast majority of perennials you buy are sold in 2 or 3 litre pots.  Very often these plants can be divided when you get them home to make more plants!

Two bergenia plants split from one mother plant

To do this you may need a clean sharp knife and a clean trowel.  Just cut through the roots of the plants and gently prise them apart.  Ive split mine in two but I wouldn't suggest splitting them into any more than 3 separate plants.

Design time

Once you've split all the plants you want to its time to get creative.

Think about where your pot will go.  Will it go up against a wall?  If so, you may want to put the taller plants at the back of the arrangement to draw the eye.  However if you plan to put your pot in the centre of a patio, it may be a good idea to draw your eye to the centre of the arrangement from all angles by putting the tallest plants in the middle of the pot.

Pot bound plants

Some plants if they have been sat on the garden centre shelves for a while may have become pot bound.  This is when the roots have been growing and trying to find new soil but haven't been able to so they just curl and grown around the soil inside their plastic pot. 

tearing the roots of a pot bound plant

If you find this is the case, then simple squeeze the plant out of its plastic pot and gently tear some of the roots a bit.  This will stimulate the roots to re-grow and send out new roots into the new soil they will find in your new container.

Your hidden treasures

WARNING: Hyacinth bulbs can cause skin reactions, so I advise wearing gloves when handling them. Once you've got your gloves on take your bulbs and nestle them in amongst the plants in your container, at a depth of twice to three times the size of the bulb. So, if the bulb is 4cm then the bottom of the bulb wants to be  at about 10-12cm from the top of the final compost layer.

showing the size of a hyacinth bulb

Fill in the gaps and finish with a flourish

If you have one of these handy compost scoops use it to fill in all the gaps with compost.  You can obviously use your hands but I always make a right mess so I prefer the scoop as it allows me to control where the compost goes a bit more.

Now, for the final touch, we're going to put some gravel on the top of the pot.

There's a few reasons why its a good idea to do that.

1. The gravel helps to retain moisture.  Generally this is not such a problem in the winter because generally we're going to get a ton of rain, but come the spring when the weather improves the gravel will help stop things from drying out.

2. This sounds a bit superficial but the gravel finishes off the pot so it looks lovely.

3.  The layer of gravel prevents annual weed seeds from getting in.   You might still get a couple that find their way in but they will be far reduced if you have the gravel on the top of your compost. 

bright pink, red, orange and bright green plants in a cream pot topped with gravel

A bonus tip

These plants will only last one season in the pot, because they will all get bigger and need to be divided come next year.  The divisions can then either go in the garden or some of them could go back into the pot again.

So I hope that this is simple to follow and that I've given you some inspiration to make your own pots for winter colour with a sensory twist.

I'd love for you to connect with me on Instagram and let me know what your favourite sensory plant is and why.

Brightly coloured plants in a cream ceramic pot in front of a red brick wall