After a wonderful summer and a mild autumn, the weather has turned, and the days are darker and more dreich but don’t hang up your welly boots just yet! Lots of lovely plants come into season in winter and these beauties tend to be far less fussy than their dainty summer counterparts. Providing interest all the way into springtime, here are some of my top winter container plants.
Skimmia ‘Japonica rubella’
Skimmia japonica is a compact male skimmia which knows how to put on a show, with beautiful red buds in wintertime which burst into pretty white or pink flowers in spring. This, coupled with their shiny evergreen leaves, means they are sure to become the centrepiece of any container.
Although their scene-stealing nature makes skimmia sound like a bit of a diva, trust me, they are not. This plant is as hardy as they come and will keep coming back bigger and brighter year after year. Their red and green wintery colour scheme is also great for getting you into the Christmassy mood.
I was introduced to hellebores by ‘Beechgrove’ when they first came to visit my container garden in 2019. Although I had, of course, heard of hellebores, I had always popped them in the “not for me” category of plants. They looked a bit weird: strange bud shapes, odd flower heads that faced the ground, and not the most attractive leaves – I was just not a fan.
I can safely say now, I am a hellebore convert – they are a perfect container plant. Last December I lost many pots in a storm and a lot of my winter plants suffered. Not my hellebores though. Although the swan like necks of the stalk may look dainty, hellebores are no Victoria lady. All seven plants gifted to me by ‘Beechgrove’ bloomed spectacularly from late December/early January to mid-March, and the number of flowers they produced was phenomenal!
Top tip – if you are thinking of planting some hellebores this season just make sure not to cover the crown.
Can you really beat a winter-flowering heather? I would have a whole container garden full of them if I could. With so many beautiful colours to choose from, there is a heather for any container garden colour scheme. It is worth being mindful of what type of soil your particular variety of heather grows best in, as many heathers require rather acidic soil. For this reason, I tend to keep my heathers in their own pots rather than adding them to larger container arrangements.
Ornamental Cabbage or Kale
When I die, make me a wreath made of ornamental cabbages. Ornamental cabbages, and ornamental kale, were developed for their colours and come in an array of spectacular greens, purples, and whites.
Although they look delicious, don’t be fooled, these guys are inedible and would not make good Christmas dinner greens. These wee colour explosions are a perfect addition to larger, varied containers as they play very well with other plants and provide much needed winter interest.
Callicarpa, or ‘beauty berry, is just a giver. It produces lovely dark green foliage for most of the year, turning to reddish bronze in autumn, before being shed to reveal clusters of bright purple berries in winter.
This is definitely one of my favourite container plants. Nothing beats the contrast of the neon purple berries against white snow on a chilly winter morning.
Lucy Bloom is a container gardener living on the side of the Forth and Clyde canal. Lucy has been gardening for five years and has been on Beechgrove three times showing off her wee balcony in Maryhill. Her gardening philosophy is: buy local, recycle, keep it cheap, and balance beauty with practicality.
You can follow Lucy on her Instagram and YouTube channel to keep up with and all the news from her wonderful container garden and recently acquired allotment.