Sweet flag, heather, cyclamen and podocarpus

Christmas crate planted with sweet flag, heather, cyclamen abd podocarpus
Christmas crate planted with sweet flag, heather, cyclamen and podocarpus

This container display combines a palette of wintry hues, set off by the vintage crate. Place it on a doorstep or patio table to enjoy the cyclamen and heather up close. Before planting, line the crate with an old compost bag, then punch drainage holes in the base. Place the conifer centrally, then split a pot of acorus and dot small clumps among the other plants. Tended over summer, this display will last a second winter, alternatively the plants can be moved into a border in spring. Trim the heather after flowering and the conifer as necessary.


Star plant: Podocarpus nivalis ‘Kilworth Cream’. The pale, yew-like needles are especially bright in winter. Spring growth is pinkish. It's slow growing but can be trimmed and does best in full sun. Height x spread 50cm x 50cm (after 10 years)

Pansy, cyclamen and juniper

Pansy, cyclamen and juniper container display
Pansy, cyclamen and juniper container display

Elegant silvers and blues complement the icy glazed pot to add style to a sheltered porch. Two choice dwarf conifer trees take centre stage – a glaucous juniper and contrasting bronze podocarpus. Ensure the plants are kept well watered. The cyclamen can simply be plunged in, still in its nursery pot, so it’s easy to replace after flowering. In spring, dismantle the display, potting the juniper back into the glazed pot, mulched with slate chips, where it can stay for years. The podocarpus and raoulia will also do well in pots.

Star plant: Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’. This pointy-tipped juniper forms a dense, wide cushion of steely blue and tolerates light shade. The foliage is purple-tinted in winter and young growth is light blue. H x S 100cm x 40cm (after 10 years)

Pinus, libertia, viola and ivy

Pinus, libertia, viola and ivy container display
Pinus, libertia, viola and ivy container display

Traditional terracotta combined with warm-toned flowers and foliage creates a warm glow on even the coldest days. The pine makes a golden foil for sugar-sweet violas, and is accentuated by a jaunty ruff of bronze libertia. Miniature-leaved ivy fills in and drapes over the rim. Kept watered and sheltered from the worst weather, these plants will look great well into next year. Deadhead the violas regularly. All but the violas will last for years in pots or borders.

More like this

Star plant: Pinus mugo ‘Ophir’. This dwarf mountain pine turns rich golden over the winter months. It forms a compact, flat-topped mound, providing structure all year round. It likes full sun and is fully hardy. H x S 60cm x 60cm (after 10 years)

Euphorbia, hellebore, bergenia and skimmia

Christmas container displays
Euphorbia, hellebore, bergenia and skimmia container display

Hardy dwarf evergreens huddle in this verdigris- effect pot, creating a living Christmas greeting for your doorstep or patio. Snowy hellebores leap out against the emerald conifer, while low mounds of skimmia, checkerberry and bergenia add splashes of festive red. Woven through it, the blue- tinted euphorbia adds a twist to the traditional colour scheme. Even heavy rain may not penetrate such dense planting, so water regularly. Every plant can be later transplanted into the garden or other containers.


Star plant: Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Coralliformis’. This striking variety has twisted bright green thread-like shoots and orange-red stems. It will grow slowly in a container for many years and can be lightly trimmed if necessary. H x S 1.5m x 1.5m (after 10 years)

How to plant your pot

  1. Check the pot has drainage holes. Half-fill with peat-free multi-purpose compost, and firm lightly. If leaving the plants potted beyond winter, mix in controlled-release fertiliser.
  2. Ensure the roots are damp before planting. Position the conifer towards the back, with the top of the rootball 3-4cm below the rim.
  3. Arrange the other plants close together for instant impact – they won’t grow over winter. Work from largest to smallest. Fill all gaps with compost and water well.
Filling the pot with compost