Keep Your Garden Flourishing With Autumn Colour

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 well into spring. Doing it now will also means 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!

There are quite a few bedding plants that will bloom and thrive through the autumn and winter, many more than what most people think. Here are some of my favourites.

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 main difference between a pansy and a viola is the flower size. Pansies have much larger flowers than Violas, but the Viola produces more of them.

 Cyclamen (our Plant of the Month in September)

For a shady corner or a touch of elegance, Cyclamens add a touch of class to the garden. They make small, compact plants with 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. 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. 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.


The image above shows our Painted Heather, sprayed with a safe food dye, the colour will remain until it grows out. Perfect for adding a little colour interest in the Autumn! For 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. 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. 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. 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.

 Autumn Foliage

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.

Happy Gardening!


Things to do in October

  • 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!

Plant of the month

Dianthus also known as Carnations, Sweet William or Pinks, although these names often relate to different species of Dianthus. For example, Dianthus caryophyllus is usually known as Carnations used often by florists, and Dianthus barbatus is generally known as Sweet William.

Interestingly, the name 'Pinks' is not because of colour of the flower, rather the frilled edge which is thought to look like it has been cut with pinking shears. It is however thought the name of the colour pink is derived from Dianthus!

Some species have an exotic, spicy fragrance. One of the oldest varieties, it's origins dating back to medieval times is 'Sops-In-Wine', so called since the petals were used to flavour wine, giving it a smell of cloves very much akin to the mulled wine we have now.

Tolerant of both heat and cold, these delicate little plants can produce blooms of colour all year round, a perfect substitue for Winter Violas or Pansies.

So, whether you are a traditional or modern gardener, there is spot in every garden for Dianthus. They adapt exceptionally well to pots, and when in full bloom, can be brought inside for a living bouquet display!

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