How to add Winter bedding to your garden

Winter bedding


The cosmos and the marigolds are fading, dahlias are starting to look worse for wear and we are saying goodbye to sunflowers and zinnias. It’s October: yet while now may be a time of transition for annuals and bedding plants, displays planted now and taking us through autumn and winter can be just as bright as those of the summer seasons. Often thought of as dull and merely a filler until spring, winter bedding can be overlooked – perhaps gardeners just can’t face it and view it as a compromise from the previous months. But winter bedding doesn’t have to be boring, in fact the opposite is true; it carries on the succession of colour when practically no other group of plants will. Arguably more valuable to the gardener than summer bedding, it is the time to plant winter bedding and bulbs now to ensure pockets of colour to raise your spirits in the winter ahead. But where to start? And how to not make your winter bedding boring?


Violas and pansies are so valuable in a winter garden, don’t let the commonness of them put you off! They come in all shapes and sizes, with unusual markings and colours, so they will suit practically any garden, looking good in pots, window boxes and at the front of borders. One of the uses which makes violas truly come into their own is their use as plug plant toppers – the final layer in a bulb lasagne, a base for the bulbs to grow through. This not only eliminates the presence of dull soil in the tops of pots all winter but introduces a beautiful combination between the viola and the bulb. For example, Viola x wittrockiana 'Frizzle Sizzle Burgundy' is the most unusual purple viola – delighting with large blooms of frilly petals. This would suit large, flamboyant tulips, such as ‘Tabledance,’ ‘La Belle Epoque,’ ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Dreamer.’ Or if tulips aren’t your thing, why not underplant violas with ‘Hyacinthe Pastel Mix.’ If bright, exotic tones of tangerine or burnt sienna, go for viola cornuta ‘Tiger Eye Red.’ These exquisite almost veinlike black markings on an ombre orange petal truly make this flower look like a tiger! Violas ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Sorbet Honeybee’ are other, lighter options, and this colour scheme would pair beautifully below tulip ‘Brisbane’ or ‘Ogene’ - ‘Sapporo’ being a stunning pastel yellow option. There are so many possible colours, shapes, forms and varieties of spring bulbs available at The Rose Press Garden – when your order arrives why not find some violas to match to make your display even more long-lasting? Not only will they provide you with colour for up to six months, violas are edible and a perfect addition to drinks, desserts and salads.


Cyclamen are ideal for naturalising and the perfect winter bedding solution for shady, woodland spots – they also won’t mind a bit of winter sun making them truly suited to anywhere. Available in colours ranging from white (Cyclamen persicum ‘Blanc Pur’) to red (Cyclamen persicum ‘Rougue Ecarlate’) and the deepest purple (Cyclamen purpurascens) and even bi-coloured blooms; there are few winter bedding plants so adaptable and versatile. They work beautifully naturalised on a forest floor, or in a pot with anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’ – another perennial, timeless classic to add to your Rose Press Garden bulb order!


Heathers and wallflowers are also reliable bedding plants that will survive a harsh winter and continue on to next spring, providing a beautiful display of colour to compliment both your winter and spring gardens. However some bedding plants that will get you through winter are more unusual than you might think… ferns and heucheras are known to most gardeners, yet few realise the benefits of the evergreen varieties in winter displays. The maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum) will survive most winters if protected from cold winds, and the delicate fronds pair beautifully with bulbs such as crocuses in the spring, and annuals like cosmos in the summer and autumn; the ferns hold their own through winter. Dryopteris erythrosora and Polystichum polyblepharum are other examples of ferns that will perform the year round – don’t be put off by long and confusing Latin names (ferns are notorious for them!) and instead treat them as a filler, foliage plant, much as you would in a flower arrangement. Heuchera sanguinea 'Splendens' is evergreen, with the brightest red flowers complimenting the brightest green foliage in springtime. Cineraria is another example of winter bedding for foliage, and the silvery fronds especially shine on a brisk, frosty morning. All of these varieties of plants pair beautifully with seeds and bulbs in the Rose Press Garden subscription box, with the easy to grow favourites and exciting new varieties provided in the box acting as the cherry on the cake for these winter and spring displays.


Grasses cannot be ignored, and while most lose their colour, the seedheads that prevail all winter provide much needed texture and movement to border and pot displays alike. While not conventionally classified as “bedding,” grasses such as carex or stipa tenuissima are vital for winter structure and interest and can easily be moved in autumn to create uplifting winter displays.


I hope I have justly proved that winter bedding really doesn’t have to be boring, and that there are so many varieties out there to compliment your spring bulbs and keep your garden looking just as bright and uplifting as it has all summer. Simply consider your desired colour scheme (whether it be dark and rich burgundies or cool, pastel lilacs and whites) and there will undoubtedly be a winter plant to provide colour and form to match.


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