Flower Power: Plants for your window box, balcony or patio this winter

News Desk (27 January, 2020) Columnists

In London gardens can be a rarity and maybe shared, small or shaded by buildings and trees

735Jackie Power

December weather was cloudy and grey with average temperatures and occasional bright, cold sunny days. January has been much the same – but cooler conditions may be on the way as we head towards February, writes Jackie Power…

Gardening in the city is often restricted to window boxes or containers on balconies or patios; gardens can be a rarity and maybe shared, small or shaded by buildings and trees. This presents a challenging growing environment – but there are a range of plants that will tolerate limited light as long as there is some sun during the day.

To ensure plants thrive – the soil needs to be kept in good condition – free draining and not compacted or waterlogged. This can be achieved by aerating and mulching in spring and autumn, and top dressing plants in spring to maintain fertility and soil structure. Shade tolerant plants include:-

  • Ivy is often overlooked because it is so common and can just arrive in the garden by itself! There are lots of different varieties such as Helix Hedera ‘Goldheart’ which has a splash of gold on the leaves; generally Ivy has a robust habit and needs to climb either against a wall or fence. It also attracts wildlife.
  • Bamboo is a vigorous shrub; there are lots of different varieties to choose from – including Golden Bamboo, Bisset’s Bamboo or Umbrella Bamboo.  This is quite an invasive plant; confine the roots in a pot when planting to slow underground spread. It can break out and quickly take over a small space.
  • The flowering quince (Chaenomeles) is an attractive, low growing shrub that produces white, peach or red flowers in January – and ornamental fruits in autumn.
  • Impatiens or the Busy Lizzies are cheerful, bright annuals which last through the summer months and provide a splash of colour, they are also drought tolerant.
  • Vinca is an evergreen ground cover plant and tolerates dense shade; it produces pretty flowers during the summer – purple, mauve, blue or white depending on the variety.

Some bulbs grow naturally in a shady environment such as Snowdrops and the Autumn crocus. Other flowering shrubs such as Choisya and summer flowering Jasmine will flourish in light shade. The evergreen Choisya is a trouble-free plant and flowers several times a year. It can be clipped to keep compact. Jasmine is a vigorous climber producing clusters of white fragrant flowers. Other useful evergreens are Holly and Box.

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