After scouring the garden centres for whatever they had left in that difficult period between autumn planting and the Christmas extravaganza it was time to make the best of a bad job. As I had left it a little late I had to make do with some unusual shrubs to go along with the primroses, pansies and violas.
Having gathered the new winter plants the real job was to clean out the boxes from the overgrown jungles they had become and prepare them for their new additions. This was not an easy job but anything worth doing is worth putting the time and effort into.
Over the week I faithfully took each box in from its ledge, cut back the overgrown and rotting foliage (which had looked great in summer!) and then forked out the roots and remaining foliage.
I could have just dumped everything, soil included, but this seemed like such a waste. And the thought of buying and carrying more bags of soil back from the shop was too depressing to contemplate. I’m not 100% sure that re-using the soil is a good idea but if things don’t work out over winter I can always start from scratch in mid spring again which is broadly what happened last year.
Most of the plants had vast networks of roots which covered every available inch of their constricted home. Some had even wrapped their roots around the polystyrene blocks which I put at the base of each container to ensure good drainage. Sometimes there was no other way to remove the plant than to haul everything out; roots, polystyrene and soil all in one mighty package.
I mixed in new soil along with vermiculite and fertiliser pellets to renew the food source and keep the soil relatively free draining as we are in the damp season where nothing ever seems to properly dry out. The pavements are still covered with a soggy leaf veneer and, unless it gets really cold and bright, precipitation is a permanent issue.
Bag after bag of old plants were removed and disposed of appropriately thanks to the neighbours’ garden waste bins. If I’d been really smart I could have salvaged some cuttings from plants to use next year but I’m short of space and even shorter of time so that idea will have to be kept in reserve for another day. It’ll be out with the seed trays soon enough!
After a week of work each one of the seven boxes had been re-made with a random group of plants that will hopefully survive over the winter and provide the short grey days with some life and colour. And like little secret notes hidden away for future generations each box has spring bulbs buried deep in the soil, waiting to burst forth and herald the coming of brighter, warmer and longer days.