At Saturday’s winter window box workshop at W6 Garden Centre, near Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith, I shared tips on ‘thrillers, fillers and spillers” with local residents. Creativity abounded with both flowers and foliage and even twinkling lights to give windows boxes a little Christmas sparkle.
We all have our own personal style, in what we wear and what our houses look like and the same is true of our gardens. It says something about us, our culture and even our heritage.
Christmas is a time when we adorn our houses with baubles and decorations. Centuries ago, we did this with plants and greenery to symbolize everlasting life in deepest winter. Holly, ivy and evergreen herbs such as bay held special meanings. Rosemary stood for remembrance and bay for valour. Holly and ivy represented the male and female and gave stability to the home.
The winter window box workshop is a chance to experiment with plants that thrive in our coldest months of winter and decide whether you would like to follow a simple colour scheme such as white and green or something more exuberant with reds and berries.
The basic structure of a container or tub is thrillers, spillers and fillers! That means one or three large evergreen plants, with fillers around them and spillers are plants like ivy that spill over the edge. Also, we could either take into the account the colour of your front door or, ignore that, and go for a wowsy multi-coloured feast for the eyes.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
A simple row of white, fragrant Cyclamen cannot be beaten, mixed with variegated Ivy, which can hang down; this container has symmetry and simplicity. For some Christmas sparkle, fairy lights can be added around the edge of the container (on a battery or solar powered).
When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbing along
Red and burgundy foliage in the run up to Christmas adds a festive feel to front window containers. For this, I would choose either one or three of the same small, structural evergreen shrubs eg Box (Buxus sempervirens), Skimmia (Skimmia japonica Rubella) or Bay. Euonymous gives a more variegated, or lighter, look and all these plants can be combined with the red or even lime leaves of the various Heuchera varieties. Cyclamen will add some dots of red colour. For botanical interest, ferns and grasses ( eg. Carex) add a complimentary mix and contrast in the colour and shape of the leaves.
I might also be tempted to add in some flowering bulbs such as daffodils, grape hyacinths or tulips for a spring surprise.
Edible Herb Container
This could be a Christmas gift or something for your balcony, kitchen windowsill or doorstep. Winter is a time for hibernation and most plants die back in the cold weather. But there are some herbs, which remain evergreen and are useful in the kitchen. I would use Rosemary, Purple Sage, Bay with perhaps Cavalo Nero, Swiss Chard (instant greens for dinner) mixed with Viola and Winter Pansies (which are edible and can look stunning crystallised with sugar) for colour.
Guidance on planting containers:
- Choose a terracotta pot or container.
- Decide on a selection of plants or herbs and viola (edible, colourful and available at this time of year);
- Put crocks (ie broken bits of pots) or gravel in the bottom of your pot for good drainage.
- Fill your container by two-thirds with multi-purpose compost.
- Soak each plant fully with water before planting.
- Place each plant in your container and fill up the pot so it looks full and vibrant. Put compost around the plants and press all the plants in firmly.
- Water regularly.