WITH the rapidly approaching festive season it’s a fantastic opportunity to make a gift for someone that can be placed outside straight away, writes TOM ATTWOOD.

I am a self-diagnosed addict of all things terracotta and for me nothing makes me happier than receiving a ceramic garden pot as a gift be it the size of an egg cup or matching the dimensions of a generously proportioned bucket.

My advice when selecting a pot to give as a gift is to err on the side of caution and choose a neutral unglazed terracotta, that way, whatever the recipients style and taste, your own choice can be shoe-horned into most scenarios. Every winter I make up pots to give as gifts and fill them with spring flowering bulbs, maybe with a luggage label attached that says what the variety(s) are and the colours of potted bulbs. If you’re feeling particularly extravagant some coloured string or raffia can add another level charm.

A simple and effective addition is to add to one of these filled pots some winter flowering bedding violas and any remaining space on the surface of the compost can be padded out with fresh moss. Even for those lacking the space of a conventional garden the beauty of a regular pot is how little room they require.

More recently, a different twist on this which I enjoy doing is to take a basic clay pot with a diameter of approximately 25-30cm and plant within it a trio of three different, summer flowering perennials.

The theme of the plants you choose can centre around colour, scent or a super insect friendly selection, for example. In the same way as the potted bulbs have an accompanying label, do the same with the perennials you choose to set the scene and maybe give some basic instructions such as where to sit the pot, in sun or shade.

As with any plant you choose, try to go for those that are going to be appropriately sized in comparison to the dimensions of the pot. You don’t want something overly tall that towers above the other plants or blows over when there’s a strong breeze.

Still thinking about the heights of the plants, go for some variation in those you select as it will make for a more interesting and convincing result.

Rather than presenting a pot with three dormant plants that visually is highly unexciting you could do the same trick as above and use some winter flowering bedding to inject some colour until the perennials take off in the spring.

Next week: top seed heads for the winter garden