With their ruff of green leaves and buttercup-yellow flowers, winter aconites make a cheerful addition to the garden, flowering in dappled shade beneath deciduous trees and shrubs. In time a few tubers will spread out to form a carpet of flowers.
Sometimes the best bit about holidays is the anticipation, but with foreign trips still off the radar sun worshippers are struggling. So if you can’t get to warmer climes, then why not bring a bit of Mediterranean magic home by growing a bougainvillea?
These vibrant plants, with bright bracts in colours as varied as fuchsia, purple and orange, are from South America, but they’ve made their home in hot spots around the world and if you have a bright sitting room or a conservatory then there’s no reason why you can’t grow one of your own.
There are shrubby bougainvilleas, but the climbing varieties that run rampant across walls in holiday spots can be trained up supports and kept in check with pruning to create a splash of sunny colour.
If you acquire a small plant now, then it is best to pot it on in spring and then start feeding it monthly. As it grows, wind the stems around a wigwam of canes. Cut some of the growth back after flowering in order to tidy it up, move it to somewhere slightly cooler, reducing watering, and then in late winter prune long shoots hard, cutting them just a few buds out from the main stem.
It is at this point you should once again give your bougainvillea the brightest, warmest place in the house and enjoy the spectacle as it comes into flower. And if you want to make more plants then take cuttings in summer and spread the joy.
It is also possible to grow that other holiday favourite, oleander, which will grow quite happily in a frost-free conservatory. These are large plants, but they can easily be kept in shape with hard pruning and they’ll reward you with a stunning display of flowers in colours from white, through pink, to red, depending on which variety you grow.
It is just worth remembering, however, that every bit of oleander, from root-tip to flower, is toxic, so wear gloves when handling it and take care when children and pets are around.
All you need now to complete the picture is a couple of pots of pelargoniums, spilling their flowers from windowsills, a lemon tree in a large container and a potted palm and you’ll have conjured up a slice of holiday heaven to keep you going until we get the green light to start travelling again.