Colourful winter plants; look out for the huntsman in the night skies; our acrostic quiz
Gardening in the middle of winter is really more of a waiting game; only the hardiest of us will be prodding around in pots at this time of year. Bulbs will have been planted and conditions are not really conducive to encouraging much to grow.
During 2016 I have seen some wonderful boat gardens on the canals, beautiful flowers and impressive vegetables, including, one boat covered with runner beans planted on the front well deck and growing up and over the roof. I have seen cucumbers grown like this and, of course, during the summer the cabin sides provide an extra source of warmth so I am thinking melons might be a possibility as well. They may even give some shade and keep the inside of the boat a little cooler.
These types of crops need lots of water and feed so have a good look at self watering pots. I have had good results growing dwarf runner beans with self watering containers which have a reservoir in the base to store water, guarding against the compost drying out, very useful if you should be away from the boat at any time.
Of course, we cannot predict how harsh the weather is going to be but I do love to see a bright and seasonal display on board. I do know that the lines of cold looking boats lined along the towpaths are a misleading site. They may look cold and unloved, but inside they will be warm, bright and cosy. I don’t live on my boat, so when the plants are not adorning the front deck they are on my doorstep at home ready for a few days away when the opportunity arises.
A recent trip to the garden centre gave me the necessary inspiration for my Christmas planting this year. There was a good selection of amazing and colourful shrubs; I was particularly taken with the bright purple berries on a bare stemmed plant called callicarpa. Skimmia is a vibrant red berried plant, looking almost like an unprickly holly, evergreen and hardy in the wind. A really tiny shrub ideal for planting in pots is another evergreen called gaultheria, choose from varieties with bright red, pink, mauve or pure white berries – a pot full of these alone would make a terrific show or combine with cyclamen, a selection of heathers and some trailing thyme – decorative and perfect for seasoning winter casseroles.
Christmas brings us gifts from friends and family and I always receive a good supply of impossibly pretty gardening gloves, somewhat useless tools and, if I am lucky, a gardening voucher or two. So bring on the seed catalogues – it’s time to dream of warmer days, summer cruising and sun shining. Happy Christmas fellow gardeners!