Hell's angels: Hellebores add some cold-season cheer

 

Winter bedding is not the most glamorous of ideas. Especially when it comes to those acres of monocolour pansies. It's sort of an amazing achievement to ruin the pansy – they are this great, characterful little flower, in bright colours, with spirited little markings on their faces, which they hold up high to the sun. But ruin them people consistently do: stroll into your local DIY shop in the next few weeks and there will be polystyrene trays of them by the hundred, stacked and ready for non-gardeners to progressively kill over the coming months.

Another winter option to be avoided at all costs is those brightly coloured polyanthus, which come in the wonderful shades of Kaffe Fassett tapestry, but without any of the skill. Unless you are Kaffe himself, I think it's best to steer clear. One massive problem of both pansies and polyanthus is that they stay low to the ground, never getting any taller than the day you purchase them, so unless you actually wanted the area bedded for winter to look like a Victorian map of the British empire, all flat colour and no structure, avoid.

So what are our genuine options for winter? I'm a big advocate of hellebores (above), a group of plants that begin blooming around Christmas and on into the grey months beyond. They have jewel-like flowers, are long-lasting and exquisite – most of what you want from a bit of winter bedding. And the colours! Faded hippy velvets, Jimi Hendrix jackets, huntsmen's coats: delicious.

Breeders have even begun to develop double-bloomed varieties, which are so heavy with flowers they start to look almost like peonies. But hellebores tend to hang their heads down, so you need to plant them somewhere you'll see them. They're perfect for windowboxes where you can actually open the window, or tubs by front doors. Crocus.co.uk currently has a tempting pack of six for £16.99, on special offer, including different varieties which will see you almost through to the solstice. And if you really can't stand the shoegazing element, plump for Helleborus niger, which tends to stand up straighter.

However, you may be the kind of person who prefers to pass the winter months with the garden looking neat and tidy, rather than hunting around among the shrubbery for flowers. An option here is to go for clean structure and, as always, box in various shapes is a popular choice. The trickiest thing with box is to get the watering right, in my experience, especially where they are planted in containers. Spring could be pricey if you fail, so be diligent and you'll be rewarded by its delicious soft-green new growth as soon as days start to lengthen.

Finally, for fragrant greenery throughout the winter, think Sarcococca. I know it sounds like a major global illness threat, but it's actually just a sweet little plant with the most beautiful scent on cold, still days. Perhaps best called by its appealing common name, "Christmas Box", it's a snip at £9.99 from Crocus.

Winter wonders

For the minimalist

Festuca glauca "Elijah Blue" is a strong, refined way to plant winter windowboxes and garden gaps, and will look beautiful for a good few months. £6.99 each, crocus.co.uk

For the colour connoisseur

The perks of being a wallflower? The selection of colours is getting better every year. And "Winter Sorbet" takes in both soft lilac and a bright burnt orange. Four jumbo plugs, £13.99, thompson-morgan.com

For the recidivist windowbox killer

Crocus has a self-watering terracotta window planter with a gauge to warn you when its reservoir is getting low. £13.49, crocus.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk