Top of the pots - window boxes for winter

Window boxes are an excellent way of adding some colour to the exterior of your house and now is a great time to give them a new lease of life with some pretty winter flowering plants to take you through the colder months.  

Garden centres should have lots to tempt you, but before you go shopping, it’s worth measuring your window boxes and containers to gauge how many plants to buy and compiling a wish list – you can then lay out the plants in the garden centre if you know the space you have to play with.  

For larger window boxes, the classic ‘thriller, spiller, filler’ approach can be helpful.  For height and structure, choose ‘thrillers’: evergreen shrubs such as Skimmia ‘Kew Green’, evergreen ferns such as Asplenium (hart’s tongue), tall ornamental grasses such as Carex testacea or strappy evergreens such as small phormium or astelia.

Then add your fillers: pretty flowering plants such as white cyclamen, dusky pink heather or winter flowering viola or pansies, which come in everything from dark purple to orange and will keep flowering through the winter if deadheaded.  Hellebores are another must at this time of year.  Helleborus niger look great with small ferns and H. ‘Silver Dollar’ has pretty silvery foliage.  You could also underplant your display with bulbs such as muscari, crocus or tiny daffodils such as N. 'Tête-à-tête'.

Add spillers to trail down containers.  Small pretty varieties of ivy work well and Muehlenbeckia – maidenhair vine - is an attractive, easy-going trailer with dark stems lined with tiny round leaves.  Vinca minor (periwinkle) is another good trailer with spring flowers.

Limiting your colour pallet to a few colours, green and white, say, or adding some hot reds or oranges is a good way of creating harmony.  Purples and blues go with most colours and silvers work particularly well with pinks and whites.  And take into account the colour of your door so that you don’t end up with a clash.

It’s also a good idea to choose plants that have quite similar foliage but with an element of contrast to lift the whole scheme.  It’s all a matter of personal taste though.  The best way to find your perfect combination is to put the plants together at the garden centre and enjoy experimenting.