Marie Staunton: Make an entrance
First impressions count, so help your front door do the talking, says Marie Staunton
When it comes to entertaining at home, we all like to make a good impression and where better to start than at the front door? After all, this is where your guests will get a first glimpse of your home. Some people go for bay trees, others for window boxes, but invariably we like to dress up the entrance to our homes to welcome friends and family, especially for big occasions such as a communion or a birthday party.
If you are after something a little more permanent, then consider a climbing rose. One called Compassion is a lovely scented, pink to apricot, repeat-flowering rose and, intertwined with clematis 'Marie Boisselot', will give continued interest right up to October.
A wisteria always looks fantastic in early May, with its beautiful, romantic cascading flowers. The flowering season is short, but the vibrant foliage will hold the interest until late autumn.
Another permanent option is the gloriously scented honeysuckle, which will flower almost continuously for the summer. If you are looking for a more cottage-garden feel, then how about the lovely, old-fashioned sweet pea?
Bay trees (Laurus nobilis) are always a safe bet as they are evergreen and only require watering and feeding. At the time of planting, add some six-month, slow-release fertiliser into the compost. This will keep them very happy during the summer when they are actively growing. If you choose to put them in big, ornamental pots, then they can also be under-planted with summer bedding. Try petunia to give added interest during the summer, and add a festive touch over winter with a lovely red cyclamen.
Bay trees require a little shaping in April and again in August, but not after that as the plant won't be able to put out new leaves in time for winter. Every year, replace the top 10cm of compost with nice new stuff and add in the slow-release fertiliser to keep it all ticking along nicely.
Make sure, at the time of planting, that you put weighty crocks at the bottom of the pot because bay trees in the lollipop shape can easily be blown over in a strong wind.
If any of you have holidayed in Italy or Spain, then you will have seen the most wonderful displays of terracotta pots filled with geraniums at every doorway in those lovely little villages. For me, this is the simplest way to dress up the entrance to your home.
Little terracotta pots filled with vibrant-coloured pelargonium are about as inviting as it gets. Some of the pots are just hung on the walls on little wrought-iron hooks and they add such a splash of colour.
You can always put three small pots of geraniums on a window sill, either side of the door, to create the same effect. And, if you get the deckchair out, you might even imagine that you are on holidays in sun-drenched Sicily -- well, okay, that's a bit of a stretch, but definitely worth a try. Failing that, it's down to the shop for a Lotto ticket!
Window boxes are very effective when planted up to last for the whole of the summer season. Again, I would use upright plants such as geraniums, under-planted with ordinary petunia and petunia surfina, which will tumble over the sides of the box, giving a nice full effect. For those window sills in the shade, go for busy lizzie, as they will do just fine without too much sun.
Another option for a doorway would be two ceramic pots planted with hosta or fern. Beautifully simple, they will add a little something special to a shaded entrance.