The best of the garden this week and chores checklist

Red Chilli. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Red Chilli. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

Flowering evergreens look lovely at this time of year, and chillies thrive when given a head start.

Best of the bunch - Skimmia japonica

These tough evergreen shrubs are brilliant on every level. They give you colour and texture all year round but they come into their own in winter, producing dense clusters of pink buds which open to reveal aromatic white flowers above glossy, dark green leaves. You’ll need to grow male and female plants together if you want the female plants to bear red berries, but if you only have room for one, go for the hermaphrodite S. reevesiana, which will self-fertilise and produce berries.

Skimmias are great for the front of large shrub borders and thrive in neutral or acid soil, growing up to 1.2 metres, depending on the variety. Popular females include ‘Veitchii’ and ‘Bowles’ Dwarf Female’, while males to try include ‘Fragrans’ and ‘Rubella’, which carries red flower buds all winter. They will thrive in partial shade in any well-drained, non-alkaline soil.

Good Enough To Eat - Sowing chillies

If you want to get a head start with some hot favourites you can start to sow chillies now indoors in a heated propagator or on a heated mat, which should produce stronger plants by the time the flowers appear in early summer.

These plants have a long growing season so can be started off on a warm windowsill, with additional heat, or in the greenhouse or conservatory.

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They’re easy to sow - just fill a seed tray with peat-free compost and scatter the seeds thinly over the surface, placing them on a heated bench to germinate. By early summer you should have strong plants which will produce more fruits.