Now that autumn has well and truly arrived, the time has come to revamp and refresh our beds, borders, pots and hanging baskets with autumn and winter bedding. Summer bedding will be looking tired and leggy, so changing it over now will ensure some cheerful colour in the long cold months to come and for some colour well into spring. Doing it now will also mean we avoid having to brave doing it when the temperature plummets, and it also gives the plants a chance to settle in before the weather worsens! We sound so optimistic don’t we!


There are quite a few bedding plants that will bloom and thrive through the autumn and winter, many more than what most people think. My favourite has to be winter violas and pansies. These stalwart favourites provide us with colour from September straight through to March, providing they are dead headed. They look great in pots, hanging baskets or planted en masse in the border all through the season. The only time they look a bit sad is after a hard frost, but as soon as the midday sun has thawed them out, they are back to looking good. Violas and pansies are hardy and reliably easy for a good show. They will make compact plants that grow to approximately 15cm (6”) in height and to approximately 30cm (12”) in spread. They main difference between a pansy and a viola is the flower size. Pansies have much larger flowers up to 7.5cm (3”) across, whereas violas have small flowers up to 2.5cm (1”) and produce more of them.


For a shady corner or a touch of elegance, cyclamens add a touch of class to the garden. They make small, compact plants up to 10cm (4”) in height and 15cm (6”) in spread. They have beautiful dark green foliage that is marbled and veined with exquisite silver markings. The blooms are available in red, dark red, pink, magenta, white, and white with pink markings. The flowers are borne on top of green stems with re-flexed petals that uncurl from the crown of the plant. Cyclamen are fairly hardy and will continuously flower throughout the autumn, well into the winter until the worst of the frosts.


Hardy chrysanthemums create great balls of colour in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink and white, that compliments the autumn foliage superbly. The flowers come at a time when herbaceous borders are starting to fade and look scrappy, providing a much needed injection of colour and giving a bit of life back to a tired garden. Growing to approximately 30-45cm (12-18”), they make sturdy, robust plants perfectly suited to pots or the border. Keep them deadheaded for continued free flowering until the first frosts. They grow better in full sun, but will cope with some dappled shade. Grow them in fertile soil that does not get water logged. They are easy to grow and help extend the flowering season.


For good evergreen ground coverage, heathers are the perfect candidate. They are hardy and drought resistant, surviving through the worst of the winter comfortably. Grow autumn and winter flowering varieties together for an extra long season of colour. The flowers last a long time and come in shades of white, pink, red and cream. Heathers are tough, low growing plants suitable for pots, hanging baskets, borders and rockeries. Growing to approximately 30cm (12”) in height to approximately 60cm (24”) in spread, they make neat little plants and can be pruned after flowering to keep bushy. Heathers will grow in most soils, but will be happier if given a free draining, ericaceous soil.


For winter scent and something a bit more unusual, try growing winter flowering dianthus (Dianthus Barbatus). They will flower from autumn up to the coldest months of winter and then re-bloom in early spring when the temperature rises a few degrees. They have single or semi double flowers with serrated edges to the petals and come in shades of pink, white, red and maroon. The flowers look like velvet and have a delicate, sweet scent to them. Dead head them to encourage more blooms. Dianthus grows to approximately 25cm (10”) in height and 20cm (8”) in spread. They are perfect for pots, baskets and in the border, in full sun or part shade. For best results, grow then in a fertile, free draining compost.


For autumn foliage try growing lamium, ivy, carex, helichrysum, ajuga, thyme, sage, vinca, ophiopogon or pernettya. They are all excellent for providing evergreen colour and foiliage for hanging baskets and pots, should bedding fail to bloom. They make superb gap fillers and are the perfect companions for violas, pansies and cyclamen. Many of them have variegated foliage which helps to warm and brighten up the garden in the cold and dark days of winter. Once winter has passed, they can be transferred from pots and baskets straight into the garden to add some evergreen colour and structure.


When you are planting out your autumn bedding, it is also the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Save time and get both jobs done at the same time. It’s the ideal time of year to get tulips, daffodils, crocus, alliums, iris and many more bulbs planted before the ground becomes too cold and damp. Plant them in fertile soil with a little bit of grit to prevent them from rotting in the winter wet and you will be rewarded with a riot of colour in the spring!


Thanks Derek!


We mustn’t forget all the gardening jobs this October and dare I mention being prepared for any snow we may get! As long as we get the Christmas trees delivered before any snow hits I will be happy – last year was very stressful!



- Sow early crops of broad beans like ‘Auqa Dulce’

- Early October is the last chance to sow grass seed while the ground is still warm and the seeds will germinate

- Plant hardy herbs such as Rosemary

- Great time to plant fruit bushes such as gooseberries

- Good time to plant trees

- Pick up leaves to keep paths clear and stop them getting slippery

- Clear leaves from greenhouse gutters

- Bring tender plants under cover before frosts start

- Use fleece roll and blankets to cover plants in the garden

- Buy your winter salt ready for ‘freezing conditions’

- Get your snow shovel and sledge early!


To keep you tempted in Autumn gardening take advantage of the discount voucher on this page.


Happy Gardening!


Fiona & Derek



When is the best time to plant fruit in the garden?


The best time to plant any fruit, including soft fruit bushes such as gooseberries or currants is in the late autumn. Top fruit like apples and pears will grow well if planted at this time but the stone fruits such as cherries, plums and peaches are best planted in the early spring as they may fail in the winter due to the wet climate in the South West.

Things to bear in mind when planting fruit:

  • If a tree such as an apple or pear, ensure that you have a self fertile variety or that there are plenty of apple or pear trees in the vicinity.
  • Choose the correct rootstock. Dwarf, Medium, or Full sized orchard tree. This depends on your garden size. Choose a really dwarf rootstock for pots such as m27 for apples.
  • Prepare the planting hole well with Westcountry compost or similar suitable planting compost.
  • Stake if in an exposed position.
  • Add bonemeal to the planting hole to slowly give off its nutrients to stimulate good root growth.

Follow these instructions and ask the staff at the Garden Centre for additional advice.


Happy Gardening

Derek & Fiona !

Plant of the month


Blueberries are simple to grow. They belong to the heather family and require acid soil but this is not a problem. Specialised fertilisers can ensure that they get the correct feed.

If you wish to grow them in pots you will need an ericaceous compost. Soil based is preferable. Some varieties are in need of a pollinator but many are self fertile. Most of the modern varieties that are on sale are self fertile. Ask advice if you are unsure.

There are varieties that are now ripening over a period of time .July August and September. A small bush can yield over a kilo of fruit. They are suitable for pots or in the garden or in the allotment.

Buy, grow and enjoy eating the muffins.