Container planting is a growing trend with the sale of outdoor plant pots going up by 225% last year, according to the RHS. Planters can create an instant garden in small spaces and smarten up patios and front gardens - adding a bit of festive cheer.
Restricting your colours and varieties to two or three will avoid your planter looking fussy, though an element of contrast is fun too. You could use one variety of plant such as white or red cyclamen - perfect for Christmas - or white hellebores such as Heleborus niger, adding silver foliage for festive interest.
It’s useful, especially for window boxes, to think, ‘thriller, spiller and filler’. Examples of thrillers, which are tall evergreen plants for structure and festive cheer, include Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’ with red berries, Gaultheria procumbens, with pink berries, and Solanum capsicastrum, which has orange fruit like tiny clementines. Silvery Calocephalus brownii (Silver Bush) is also very Christmassy – especially teamed with red cyclamen. Evergreen grasses such as Carex ‘Ice Dance’ or ferns such as asplenium (hart’s tongue) or ornamental grasses such as coppery Anemanthele lessoniana (Pheasant’s grass) provide interesting form and leaf texture.
As well as ivy, for the trailing spillers, try Muehlenbeckia complexa – maidenhair vine with its mass of tiny leaves on burgundy stems or soft silvery leaved Helichrysum petiolare. Then use fillers for the gaps, such as winter-flowering viola or pansies – which will keep going through the winter if deadheaded. Heucheras, with their large bold evergreen leaves in everything from rich plum to festive red, brighten and also add bulk.
Above all remember, rules are there to be broken and planters are a great place to experiment with plant combinations. But before you go mad at the garden centre, remember to measure your container for a rough idea of how many plants to buy.