Evergreen shrubs: create a variegated container for winter

by Drucilla James

At this time of year balconies, patios and front porches can often appear dull and bare, adorned only with planters displaying the bedraggled remnants of summer’s glory or the odd forlorn conifer.Why not plant up a container with variegated evergreens to lend vibrant colour to your garden space in these dreary winter months. You can even add a touch of delicious scent too.

Things you’ll need

  • Container
  • Drainage materials – crocks, horticultural grit
  • Rose, tree and shrub compost
  • Slow-release fertiliser

Plants we used

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Leucothoe ‘Curly Red’ and Leucothoe ‘Makijaz’

There is a wonderful variety of shrubs you can use for an evergreen container. We chose the following for their interesting and complementary range of colours:

  • Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Makijaz’
  • Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red’
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Sarcococca ruscifolia and Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Carpet’

  • Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Carpet’
  • Sarcococca ruscifolia- with beautiful heady scent
  • Calocephalus brownii – snow bush
  • Hedera variegata
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Calocephalus Brownii and Hedera variegata

Step by step

  1. Before planting soak the plants in their pots in water.
  2. Site the container where you want its final position to be.
  3. Put in drainage material –place crocks (pieces of broken clay pots) over the drainage holes followed by horticultural grit – sufficient to cover the base.
  4. Half fill the container with compost, pressing it down gently with your hands.
  5. Add slow-release fertiliser, then add more compost as in Step 4.
  6. Find the best arrangement by trying out the plants, in their pots, in different configurations in the container.
  7. Starting with the largest plant, dig a hole large enough to fit the root ball in. Gently knock the plant out of its pot and tease out the roots if it is pot-bound.Plant into the container ensuring the top of the root ball is just below the level of the compost.
  8. Gradually set the rest of the  plants into the new container as in Step 7, knocking them out of the pots as you plant them. Fill in around them with compost, pressing down lightly with your fingers.
  9. Firm the compost in place and smooth the surface when visible.
  10. Water the plants.

evergreen planter pots

 We love the Hebe ‘Magic Summer’ – a variegated Hebe and the Cyclamen coum in our header picture too for this time of year.

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