by Connie Oswald Stofko
Now that it’s autumn, have you turned your back on your gardens, or will your landscape give you pleasure even throughout winter?
Keep your autumn and winter gardens appealing with these two tips from Jay Jinge Hu, who shared his Williamsville landscape on Open Gardens for the first time this year.
Keep ceramic & cement pots from breaking in winter
I have always advised gardeners to bring their concrete or ceramic pots inside for the winter. When the water inside the container freezes, the water (now ice) expands and can crack the pot.
I left a couple of large containers out during the winter, and even though they were plastic containers, they split, too. I don’t want to take a chance with my prettier and more expensive ceramic pots, so I bring those inside.
But Hu doesn’t do that.
“With the amount of pots I have, it’s impossible to move them all inside,” Hu said.
His trick to keep his pots safe? Empty plastic bottles.
When he’s planting up his pots in spring, Hu sets the empty drink bottles in the pot as a buffer, then adds his potting soil. In autumn and winter, when the water in the soil freezes and expands, the soil squishes the bottles rather than putting all the pressure on the sides of the pot.
Evergreens are backbone for winter garden
“We’re drawn to things that flower,” Hu said, but in the winter, you need evergreens.
Evergreens are the backbone of your winter garden. They give you color and texture, and if you clip an evergreen into a topiary, it gives you varied forms, he said. Evergreens also shelter birds and other animals from the wind and cold.
“Evergreens are very important,” he said.
From what he has read, evergreens should be at least one-third, maybe even one-half of your plants.
While you can choose large evergreens, you can also choose smaller varieties and plant them in pots. Hu keeps evergreens in smaller nursery pots. In autumn, when the showy annual flowers in a large, decorative container are done, he places the evergreen, nursery pot and all, into the larger decorative pot.
“The large containers provide extra insulation and shelter to the potted evergreens,” Hu said, “and we have some extra winter interest.”
Keeping evergreens in pots makes it easy to move them around. Evergreens may need full sun in summer, but in winter, they do better in a sheltered and shaded spot to minimize desiccation (drying out), he said.
In late spring, he takes the evergreen out of the decorative pot and replaces it with annuals.