October 2014: Autumn Gardening

So, summer’s heat and colour are gone from the garden and we are left with bright memories and a rather dull reality. But the reality needn’t be dull, at all. There is a huge range of plants available to bring interest to the autumn/winter garden scene. Temporary, seasonal colour interest can be achieved with annuals such as pansies. A stalwart of winter bedding displays, pansy plants are so versatile and will bloom for far longer than any other winter flowering bedding plant. From autumn through to spring, pansies provide a welcome splash of colour in beds, borders, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets! Available in many colours, including white, purple, blue, red, orange and yellow, grow winter-flowering pansies in a sunny or partially shaded position and dead-head regularly for continuous flowering.

Or violas which are generally slightly smaller than pansies, viola plants produce an abundance of dainty flowers on neat compact growth for a more subtle display. As versatile as pansies, you can buy upright varieties such as Viola ‘Sweeties’ or trailing violas such as Viola ‘Allspice Mixed’ which are ideal for winter hanging baskets. Many violas often have a delightful sweet fragrance too.

Or Primrose, a well-loved cottage garden bedding plant. Modern breeding has given us a plethora of new colours, sizes and improved flowering in primrose plants. No longer flowering for a brief period in spring, modern varieties such as Primrose ‘World’s Most Scented Mix’ start producing their rosettes of flowers from mid-winter onwards in a whole host of bright colours. Try this hardy perennial bedding plant in beds, borders, window boxes and containers to add sparkle to your garden on dull winter days.

Or Polyanthus, a compact and bright plant that differs slightly to primroses in that the flowers are produced in umbels atop short, sturdy stems. As colourful as their cousins and with long-lasting flowers, Polyanthus are superb winter bedding plants for beds, borders, window boxes and containers. For a fragrant display try Polyanthus ‘Most Scented Mix’.

Or Cyclamen coum, a true winter-flowering plant, Cyclamen coum will fill your garden with colour even on the dullest January and February days. A more subtle winter-flowering bedding plant, Cyclamen’s dainty nodding flowers with reflexed petals, and attractive marbled leaves, pair well with snowdrops, evergreen grasses, box and trailing ivy. Grow Cyclamen coum in beds, borders, containers or window boxes for a splash of pink in your winter garden.

When choosing more permanent features such as evergreen herbaceous plants or shrubs there are just a couple of very simple tricks to getting things looking good:-chose wisely where you put them and chose wisely which plants you chose for your garden. Put them where they can be seen from the house and treat them as individual specimens, not groups of ill-matched and odd plants. Try to use evergreens that either match existing plant textures/shapes/styles or go completely the opposite and choose contrasting features. Get it wrong and the result will be disappointing, get it right and the result will give pleasure for years to come. However, always check before you buy that they are suitable for your needs and for your garden. For instance; how big will it grow, is it well behaved or is it invasive, will it be happy planted in garden soil or will it need to be in a pot containing ericaceous compost? Will it survive in damp/shade/dry/windy/frost pocket conditions? The list below contains tried and tested plants that can withstand our varied climate as well as providing autumn/winter interest. Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, Skimmia japonica, Garrya elliptica, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, Eranthis hyemalis, Cornus sanguine, Helleborus niger ‘Potter’s Wheel’, Sorbus commixta, Rosa rugosa, Rosa moyesii, Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’, Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ and last but not least, Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’.