Surrounding yourself with flowering houseplants is one way of making gloomy January days more bearable.
Another is to have inspirational perennials such as Mahonia Charity and Erica carnea waiting to charm whenever you set foot outdoors.
Add a few plants that are shaping up to perform, and the anticipated bloom is enough to carry you through the remaining weeks of winter.
Cyclamen corms that were saved after weeks of flowering last winter are showing us what a sensible decision it was to persevere. Many people discard them once the blooms fade, but that is such a waste of good plant material.
Cease watering in April, separate the corm from dry compost and store it in a greenhouse or shed until September. That’s when you fill a clean pot with fresh compost and push the old corm gently into the surface. Offer moderate warmth, light and moisture to encourage winter flowering.
Zonal pelargoniums (geraniums) are so underestimated as year-round decorative plants. They’re capable of performing way beyond their summer comfort zone, yet gardeners confine plants used in bedding and containers to the compost in autumn. What a waste!
Select sturdy specimens with branching stems and prune them severely. Turn the removed growths into stem cuttings and pot the parent plants into compost. The result, once they regain composure, is a regeneration of blooming that continues through winter indoors.
The market is awash with potted plants in full bloom at Christmas. They range from Azalea indica to Zygocactus truncatus, with orchids and poinsettia in between.
Given a temperature of 12C to 15C and careful watering, most will remain attractive for weeks on end, but we must think of continuity. Three key plants bring this for me – jasmine, hyacinth and hippeastrum.
Jasminum polyanthum, the white, highly fragrant type, is just about to start flowering. There are two pots in the cold greenhouse and one indoors. So powerful is the scent that it can be an eye-watering experience.
This plant is easily propagated from layering or stem cuttings whenever soft growth is present, normally from June to August.
Hyacinths growing in bowls provide a stunning visual attraction and their fragrance penetrates the darkness.
You can buy these two now; the jasmine in a pot and a group-planting of hyacinths in a bowl. Alternatively, select a few hyacinths grown individually, all at the same stage of development, and create your own group.