its time for violas...

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The nights are drawing in, my hostas have lost their leaves and I’ve been out in the garden replacing the spent summer lovelies in my pots with the sweetest little violas - purple faces with a touch of white and yellow  - which I know will make me smile each time I pass them. 

I’m not a mega gardener by any means.  Despite my passion for gardening I don’t like to use a spade very much and my new potager is going to be a strictly no-dig zone a la Charles Dowding.  However I make the most of the seasons by adding plants that capture the changes and lift my spirits.  

I have banks of pots around my front and back doors that are planted up with a permanent framework of shrubs and evergreen perennials and give me tremendous pleasure.  I choose plants with interesting and contrasting foliage that look good together and can be moved around as I wish. 

At the moment I have, in no particular order, Nandina domestica, Bergenia, Euphorbia mellifera and martinii, Pieris, Fatsia japonica, Box balls, Cornus alba ‘Variegata’ - it’s lost its leaves and is just wonderful red stems right now, Polystichum setiferum (fern) and more.  I love to mix the plants in my pots - not everyone does - some people prefer to have one plant per pot and then associate them together - do whatever you prefer - there’s no right way - isn’t that one of the wonderful things about gardening.

I add the pretties in the gaps (for winter I generally use violas as they make me smile but you could also go with Cyclamen, heather or those brightly coloured cabbages which are a bit like marmite - not everyone’s cup of tea)  and then just vary them seasonally as needed to keep things fresh and fun.   The violas are replacing some gorgeous hostas that have had their moment for this year.  I haven’t thrown them away though - I’ve done an experiment and just planted the violas as close as I can without removing them. I’m hoping they will just pop up again in spring and that the violas, which are a little bit proud of the soil, will be fine too…

It’s easy to get going with pots if you don’t already have some - just pop into your local garden centre and see what they’ve got that excites you or perhaps go online to and which both have fabulously inspiring and informative websites; I always feel like I’m in a sweetshop when I’m looking at Sarah’s choices and particularly love her ideas. She’s also fantastically scientific about ensuring that whatever variety of plant she chooses it will be a good ‘doer’ and tests everything she sells herself in the garden at Perch Hill. She makes it all very accessible so do have a look. (This is not a collaboration - I just really like what both these companies do).

Oh - and a thought about plant names. I try to include the common names for everything I mention but, as a trained designer, it’s the latin names that trip to my tongue and I confess I love them. I hope this doesn’t put you off and that you can look things up and begin to feel a bit confident with them yourself. The scientific reason for the use of latin is that common names vary country to country which isn’t helpful for those involved in plant identification. Anyway - I just thought I’d explain!

Whatever you call your plants its definitely worth getting out there and giving your pots their winter colour very soon so they can cheer you as you pass them each day…