When looking to sell or rent a residential property we all know that the aroma of fresh coffee will do much to evoke a sense of home and will help those viewing the property to imagine they have already moved in. But well maintained and attractive window boxes or balcony planters will further enhance the attractiveness of the property.

Emma Whitten, a professional gardening expert (who works with a wide range of private and corporate clients), explains what jobs need to be done this month to make the most of your micro gardens.

Things to do in February in your patio, balcony or window boxes

Yes, it’s cold, but things are stirring in the plant world and this is a great time of year to take stock of your balcony or patio containers and freshen them up.

Winter greenery can be utterly delightful and nothing says “loved property” like a well dressed balcony or window box. I spend a lot of time refurbishing front gardens and containers for owners who are looking to sell or rent out.

If you didn’t plant bulbs back in the autumn don’t worry. Most garden stores and better supermarkets sell ready-grown daffodils and tulips, which you can simply transfer to the appropriate space or re-plant in your own pots or window boxes — and then take all the credit!

This is the time for hellebores, snowdrops and the early daffodils; later, tulips and irises. Narcissus ‘Thalia’ is a beauty — a relatively short and perfectly white daffodil, which looks gorgeous against a nice evergreen canvas (think box balls or ivy).

The first thing to do is refresh the compost. You don’t need to get rid of all the soil in a container but remove the top 2-3 inches and replace with some brand new organic compost (multipurpose is fine for most plants). You can do this even with pots which are already planted. This will give your new and existing plants a great start to the growing year and keep them looking healthy though spring.

If you’re starting from scratch, here are two ideas for early spring window boxes, all easily available in most garden centres. For a splash of colour for a sunny position I highly recommend Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ alongside Narcissus (‘Minnow’ and ‘Thalia’ are very pretty and not too tall) and Bellis perennis — the mixed pinks are beyond cheerful.

For a woodland window box in a shady position I would go with Polistichum munitum or other ferns like Asplenium. Add Primula vulgaris and Helleborus x hybridus — there are hundreds of hellebores to choose from — but the purple and lime-coloured varieties look sensational together.

What is critical with any kind of planting in containers is that you water them (rainwater is never enough!). Too many clients spend good money for carefully designed and filled planters only to leave them alone for months hoping that any wet weather will keep them alive. Unfortunately, it won’t because all plants in containers completely depend on you for water — as they cannot draw up moisture from the ground through their roots.

The best way to tell if you need to water is to dip a finger into the container up to your first knuckle. If you feel moisture, all is well. If it feels dry, give it a soak.

If you plan to be away for some time, or travel frequently, you could always invest in an automated watering system. There are lots on the market, from the very simple to the very hi-tech; either way, they will ensure that you don’t return to a micro desert!

Bon chance! | emma@emmawhittengardens.com

Key to the plants in the main photo