The winter months need not be dull if you use a little imagination.
Choose mixed planting in containers for added colour and life when everything else seems dull and grey.
Flowering evergreens, clusters of berries and blossoming bulbs in containers and pots will bring brightness into this perceived quiet season.
Autumn is most often associated with trees turning to soft coppers and burnished golds, yet there are flowering autumnal plants that take their colour into winter long after the trees have been laid bare – winter pansies, hebes, outdoor cyclamen and primulas give splashes of many hues.
There are several compact container shrubs that give added value with their bright berries.
Most are completely hardy and can look beautiful with a sprinkling of winter frost.
Skimmia japonica is an all-round winner, with fragrant creamy, bell-shaped flowers, glossy evergreen leaves, and bright berries. It does prefer shade or semi-shade, making it particularly useful for overshadowed corners.
Finally, when most plants have lost their leaves, anything with colourful foliage comes into its own.
Ornamental cabbages will add a striking note to winter containers. Their shades of rose, ruby and garnet, and swirls of crinkly-edged leaves add drama to a mixed planting bed.
They make a great background to feathery heathers and will look colourful planted against dark mounds of ivy.