Ideas for a colourful winter planter

A winter planter to help sell the house ?

I always knew that the smell of fresh baked bread was the ideal catalyst to induce a potential home  buyer to buy a house, but what if the house has not been used for the past five years and has no baking utensil and not even a working oven (to reheat some shop bought bread!)? A friend of mine was faced with such a dilemma, his mother has spent the last 5 years in a nursing home and has now finally agreed that she will no longer be able to return to her home and has decided to put it on the market. My friend decided that as first impressions are known to count the only way to get people to come to view the  otherwise barren house is to spruce up the garden – the problem is that the front garden is just one large paved area – so he came up with the idea of putting a large planter underneath the bay window. He asked me to help him, so I agreed that if he provides the planter I will fill it.

the empty lined planter
the empty lined planter

A few days later the planter was on my doorstep with a little note, “Boris, please fill with flowering plants” . It was quite well made – he had used decking wood which is a good idea. Decking is already treated wood, reasonably wide and value for money. It is easy to work with and after he cut the long strips he simply made a box screwed together with a small wooden support in each corner. He had lined it with plastic to ‘retain the water’. I called him and explained to him, that firstly we are not creating a bog garden and the plants will only die unless we slit the plastic for drainage and secondly that during January you can’t expect a riot of colour. He answered me, “come on Boris, I am sure you can do something just make sure  that it will show  a lot of  colour  over the next few months without me needing to tend to it. “

I set out to find ‘ a lot of colour’ in the garden centre. The only perennial I could find in flower was the Hellebore which I have written about in my other column this week ‘Flower of The Week.’ I then chose two Skimmia plants that were just beginning to break bud and would definitely stay in flower over the next few months. Of course we need to add some green material , for this I chose a variegated euonymus and I found two miniature Christmas trees ( just 25cm. high) that the garden centre were getting rid of at a reduced price.

Not enough colour
Not enough colour

I took some top soil from my allotment (as bought compost costs around 10p per litre) and filled the bottom half of the planter, and then filled the rest with bought compost, I then eased the plants from their pots [ the miniature xmas trees were so pot bound they seemed to have been left over from 2015!]  and planted them into the trough. I stood back and admired my work but I decided that it would not yet fit my friend’s requirement of ‘lots of colour’ . Back to the garden centre I went – and I was lucky to find that they had a new delivery of cyclamen and it was Cyclamen that came to the rescue. After dotting a few plants here and there it now really looks a riot of colour, and then as an extra – I had some hyacinth bulbs that I still had not planted up – and I pushed them into the soil so we are guaranteed colour till the end of March. I topped it up with some wood and leaf chippings from the shredded Christmas tree- [they will spruce up the trough and give passers by a pine scent!] – and  they definitely give it a  professional finishing touch.

finally in situ
finally in situ

My friend thanked me and paid for my work and the plants – the asking price for the house is ‘offers around 300K’, if it sells quickly due to the beautiful flowering trough in the front garden – do you think I will get a cut?   Unlikely – but we garden for the love of gardening not for the money!

Boris Legarni .

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