Imagine a world without flowers. Unthinkable, isn’t it? Instead here are four things that you can do this month to fill your home and garden with blooms throughout the coming months, without costing the earth . . .
For house flowers in the depths of winter
Forget poinsettias (too hard to grow, too quick to sulk, far too ready to die) and instead grow some pots of amaryllis (or hippeastrum as they’re more properly known), a tender, sub-tropical bulbous plant whose sculptural, larger-than-life blooms have the sort of old-school Hollywood glamour guaranteed to light up the shortest, darkest, gloomiest days of winter.
Plant their fast-growing fleshy bulbs this month for some post-Christmas cheer, making sure to use a container deep enough to house the plants’ fleshy roots (so about twice the height of the bulb) but only slightly wider than the bulb itself.
The container should also have several drainage holes while the compost needs to be very free-draining, so add plenty of grit or vermiculite. As for the bulb, it should be large, firm, dry and without any bruises or signs of decay (stockists include all good garden centres as well as online specialist suppliers such as peternyssen.com).
Fast-growing fleshy amaryllis bulbs can be planted this month for some post-Christmas cheer. Photograph: iStock
Before planting, pre-soak the roots (but not the bulb) in water overnight, then plant it so that roughly two-thirds of the bulb remains above the surface of the gently-firmed compost after planting. Water gently and then place the pot in a bright, warmish room out of direct sunlight. Keep it watered, aiming for a compost that’s never more than very slightly damp to the touch.
Hyacinths can be force-grown. Photograph: iStock
Once the flower spike appears, start giving your amaryllis/hippeastrum plant a weekly liquid seaweed feed. If the flower is very large/multiheaded, support it with a slender wooden stick.
Other bulbous species that can also be forced into winter bloom indoors include paperwhites, hyacinths, crocuses, irises and scillas, many of which are intensely scented (see rhs.org.uk for more detailed instructions on how to force all of these into early flower indoors).
For a winter flower garden
Winter-flowering plants aren’t thick on the ground but that just makes them all the more precious.
For a lovely, very long-lasting display that will provide plenty of seasonal interest, colour, and scent, choose a mix of shrubs, perennials and bulbous plants and group them together, ideally situating them close to a door or entrance way or in easy view of a window for maximum enjoyment.
Chimonanthus provides winter colour and fragrance. Photograph: iStock
Mahonia provides winter colour. Photograph: iStock
Remember that slow-growing medium and large winter-flowering shrubs such as mahonia, rhododendron, sarcococca, chimonanthus, Garrya elliptica, hamamelis, abeliophyllum, skimmia, daphne, viburnum and lonicera can be grown in pots when they’re young and then eventually transplanted into their permanent position (or given away to gardening friends) once they get too large.
Cyclamen may be planted now for spring colour. Photograph: iStock
Include some winter-flowering hellebores, some winter bedding (pansies, polyanthus, violas) and generous quantities of small winter and spring-flowering bulbs such as snowdrops, …….