Leafy Little Venice gets even leafier when you take two turns off Warwick Avenue and enter Clifton Nurseries, horticulturists for well over 100 years. These fragrant few acres are a plantsman’s dream, all frondy pathways, mossy pots, lavender, vines, palms, a resident cat, and a treasury of well-kept foliage, trees, herbs, shrubs, flowers, bulbs and garden necessities/luxuries.

It’s not as rustic as our visit to Petersham Nurseries earlier this year, but just as delightful. And, this time, we’re here as gardeners – albeit ones without gardens. Sarah Glenny, outdoor plants supervisor at Clifton, is going to show us how to plant an autumn/winter flowering pot, layered with bulbs to take us right through to spring.

Plant your own flowering pot for autumn/winter

You’ll need:

  • One 29cm diameter terracotta pot
  • A trowel, scoop or plastic pot
  • Watering can
  • Scissors
  • Multipurpose compost
  • Hydroleca
Plants and bulbs:

  • Crocus bulb ‘Ruby Giant’
  • Narcissus bulbs
  • Winter-hardy fern
  • Skimmia ‘Rubella’
  • Winter-hardy cyclamen
  • Viola
  • Heucherella ‘Gunsmoke’
  • 1

    Assemble your tools, bulbs and plants.

  • 2

    Place a bit of broken pot or china over the drainage hole in the bottom of your terracotta pot, to stop soil falling out of the bottom.

  • 3

    Start with a layer of Hydroleca: clay pebbles that are excellent for good hydration/drainage.

  • 4

    Cut open the compost bag – it makes it easier to work with.

  • 5

    Add about 10cm of compost, keeping it loose so you can scoop out holes for the bulbs and plants.

  • 6

    Place the crocus bulbs in near the side.

  • 7

    Add the narcissus in the middle – they’ll come up taller than the crocus.

  • 8

    Loosely cover the bulbs with a layer of soil.

  • 9

    Arrange your plants in height order.

  • 10

    Dig a space big enough for the first plant.

  • 11

    Tip the plant out of the pot and plunge the root ball into water for a few minutes to give it a good start. Also, pick off weeds, any rotten bits or yellowing foliage from the base.

  • 12

    Plant in a circle, starting with the tallest, ferns first, ideally opposite where you placed the crocus bulbs. Firm down the soil around it. It should be sitting a few centimetres lower than the rim of the pot, to allow room for watering.

  • 13

    Continue with the skimmia: an evergreen with pretty buds that produce creamy, pink-tinged flowers in spring.

  • 14

    Next plant the cyclamen, then the viola, which is winter-hardy, going to sleep when it’s frosty and coming back to life when the sun shines.

  • 15

    Finally, put in the heucherella, an evergreen plant with foliage that will look lovely winterlong. Water immediately.

Sarah’s green-fingered tips

  • Against an exterior wall is the best place to keep your pot, sheltered from real cold, and in dappled shade.
  • Cyclamen go on until about Christmas time, after which you could swap it for snowdrops, pansies or primrose.
  • Attend to your pot every few days, watering when needed. Cyclamen and viola need regular deadheading.
  • In mid-May, you can change over to summer plants: begonia, lobelia, geranium.

Clifton Nurseries, 5A, Clifton Villas, London, W9 2PH (020 7289 6851; www.clifton.co.uk)


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