You may not have room for a collection of fully grown conifer trees in your garden, but a mini conifer patch is a very sweet addition. Choose plants in different shades and heights and plant in a tray, giving the roots space to grow outward. This metal tray even has carrying handles so that it can be moved around to act as a table decoration or container in different areas of your garden.
You Will Need
Hammer and nail
Selection of small conifers — I used Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’ (Monterey cypress), Cryptomeria japonica ‘Vilmoriniana’ (Japanese cedar), Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Pembury Blue’ (Lawson’s cypress), Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’ (Japanese cedar), Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Carpet’ (flaky juniper), Juniperus communis ‘Depressed Star’ (common juniper), and Cryptomeria japonica ‘Tilford Gold’ (Japanese cedar)
1. Make drainage holes in the bottom of the tray if it does not have any. Use a hammer and nail and punch holes randomly all over the base.
2. Put a layer of crocks in the bottom of the tray, covering the drainage holes so that they will not become blocked with potting compost.
3. Scoop potting compost into the tray, half filling it and spreading the compost out evenly.
4. Soak the root balls of all the plants in water for about 20 minutes so they are all completely wet. Take the Monterey cypress out of its pot and tease the roots out a little if necessary. Plant it at the back of the tray, pushing it down into the potting compost slightly and making sure that it is vertical.
5. Remove the pot from the Japanese cedar ‘Vilmoriniana’ and plant next to the Monterey cypress in the same way. Make sure that the surfaces of the root balls are level.
6. Continue in the same way, planting the Lawson’s cypress in front of the Monterey cypress.
7. Take the Japanese cedar ‘Globosa Nana’ from its pot and plant in the right-hand corner at the front of the tray.
8. Remove the flaky juniper from its pot and plant in the front left-hand corner. Squeeze in the two remaining conifers in the middle of the tray. Add more potting compost to fill in any gaps and level the surface, firming the compost down so that all the plants are held in place.
Water the tray and leave to drain. If the tray is in a sheltered spot where it will not receive any rainfall, water it regularly so that the potting compost remains moist, but be careful not to overwater. Stick your fingers in the potting compost to check the moisture — you will probably not be able to tell if the conifers are too dry by looking at them. Add fertilizer to the tray in the second year after planting to keep the conifers healthy.
Holly and berries shout out ‘winter,’ and here they are combined with heather and ivy to make a handsome container that will require little attention. The plump red berries add a splash of color, accentuated by the simple cream planter.
You Will Need
Moss (available from florists)
Potting compost, with a few scoops of gravel added for drainage
Pernettya mucronate (prickly heath)
Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’ (holly)
Erica darleyensis ‘Kramer’s Red’ (heather)
Hedera helix (ivy)
1. This container is studded with holes, which look lovely and provide good drainage. To prevent the potting compost falling out, line the container with moss. Press sheets of moss around the inside of the planter, then half-fill the planter with potting compost, making sure there are no air pockets and pressing the compost against the moss to keep it in place.
2. Soak the plants in water for 20 minutes so the root balls are wet. Carefully remove the prickly heath from its pot (the stems are spiny), loosen the roots if necessary, and place in the planter. Loosen the holly roots if necessary, and plant next to the prickly heath, adding more potting compost so the root balls are level. Plant the heather and ivy in the same way. Add a few handfuls of potting compost to fill in any gaps, then water.
The pot will probably not require additional watering over winter, although if it is situated in a sheltered spot, check the potting compost occasionally and water if very dry.
This beautiful living wreath is very simple to make and will look good all year round. Succulents are tough plants and cope well when divided, rooting well when replanted. I’ve used a large selection of plants, but if they are not available at your garden centre or you wish to keep the cost down, simply break off sections from succulents you already have. Try to vary the colours from greens and whites to reds and mauves.
You will need:
Moss (available from florists)
Wire wreath base, 14 in (35cm) in diameter
Selection of succulents—I used Jovibarba hirta neilreichii, Jovibarba heuffelii, Sedum acre
‘Golden Queen,’ Sedum ‘Alba,’ Sedum ‘Sakhalin,’ Saxifraga ‘Southside Seedling,’ Delosperma congestum ‘Golden Nugget,’ Lewisia tweedyi, Sempervivum ‘Fuego,’ Rhodiola
pachyclados, Chiastophyllum oppositifolium, and Androsace sempervivoides
Stiff floristry wire
1. Tear the moss into pieces and lay them in a ring shape slightly larger than the wire wreath base, root side up, on the table. Lay the wire wreath base on top of the moss.
2. Place handfuls of potting compost on the wire wreath base. Gather up the moss to cover the base and potting compost completely, wrapping copper wire around it to hold it in place.
3. Cut a length of copper wire about 20 in (50cm) long and fold it in half. Wrap it around what will be the top of the wreath, twisting it around itself to form a loop to act as a hanger.
4. Gently pull florets and sections of the succulents from their main plants, keeping the roots intact. Cut the floristry wire into lengths of about 4 in (10cm) and bend them in half to form a “U” shape. Dig a small hole in the moss with your finger and lay the plant in it, securing it in place by pushing a bent wire around the base of it. This will be easier with some succulents than others, but judge each one individually, adding an additional wire if you need to.
5. Work around the wreath, adding more plants and varying the shapes and colors to form an attractive arrangement. Leave little gaps between plants so they will have room to grow and fill the space. Check that all the plants, the potting compost, and the oss are securely held in place by the wire. Wind the wire around itself a few times to fasten it and cut with wire cutters.
Ideally, the wreath should be left lying horizontal for at least a couple of weeks to give the plants a chance to root themselves, but if you are making it at the last minute to decorate a party, ensuring that the plants are tightly held in place should be enough to keep it looking good when it is hanging. Succulents can survive quite dry conditions, so make sure that the wreath does not become waterlogged. In very dry weather, just moisten the moss and potting compost a little.