The winter patio or balcony, need not look bare and unloved. Evergreen shrubs and conifers give shape and clothing; there can even be splashes of colour from purple winter pansies, red holly berries and white Helleborus niger. Keeping the area swept, and trimming off any dead flower heads or shrivelled leaves, will ensure it never looks neglected. In mild regions, it is not usually necessary to protect terracotta pots against frost, unless they are particularly valuable antiques or, non-frostproof imports from the Mediterranean. However, in many areas it would be prudent to gather the pots together in the shelter of a porch, or as near to the house wall as possible. If it is not possible to bring large pots indoors, wrap them in plastic bubble-wrap or hessian. Avoid watering unless it is absolutely necessary - it is usually, the freezing of wet compost which causes the pots to crack.