Autumn is about to deliver its fabulous palette of colour to the countryside – but your garden might not be looking quite so vibrant at this time of year.
All is not lost though: if there’s not much coming into flower in your established beds and borders, it’s the perfect time to hunt down some winter bedding plants that will fill the gaps and lift your spirits during the darker days ahead.
And if you really want to splash out, then fill some containers, window boxes and hanging baskets as well as your garden beds and borders, for the ultimate display of winter cheer.
For easy maintenance and vividly-coloured flower displays, you can’t really beat good old-fashioned pansies, which easily out-bloom any other winter flowering bedding. While they do prefer full sun, pansies also thrive in semi-shade so they’re ideal for hanging baskets and containers, as well as plugging gaps in your borders.
Look for those extra-bright colours like purple, blue, red, orange and yellow, or go for a selection like Matrix Mixed.
For a more delicate look, opt for the pale, butterfly-like flowers of cyclamen. A true winter-flowering plant, the dainty cyclamen will colour your garden right through even the dullest January and February days. They’re also pretty low-maintenance, and cyclamen looks lovely in a woody setting, providing great ground cover that self-seeds to create a carpet of blooms each year. In a container, its subtle colours pair well with snowdrops and evergreen grasses, as well as box and trailing ivy.
We tend to think of daisies as a summer plant but in fact the neat and compact Bellis is a hardy perennial daisy that produces round, quilled blooms in pink, red or white, and they’re just the thing to brighten up your late winter garden with jewel colours. Plant now and they’ll light up your borders through the autumn and into winter. Given good conditions, they’ll even produce a second flush of flowers in the spring.
For some late-season fragrance and a dash of red, pink, purple and white flowers, add in some Sweet Williams to your planting scheme. The hardier varieties will even survive the first frosts and in planted containers kept in a sheltered position, they can provide colour in the garden for months.
Also good for scent are wallflowers, that rustic favourite with a more relaxed habit than other winter bedding plants. Wallflowers can also bloom right through to late autumn, even edging into early winter if the weather’s mild.
Another popular solution for a colour-starved winter garden is the primrose, along with its close cousin the polyanthus.
Traditionally pale yellow, the modern versions of this much-loved plant are available in a dazzling array of colours and sizes and are the perfect antidote to winter gloom. Harden them off before planting out, and avoid over-watering containers though, because dampness will encourage rot.
Polyanthus plants are similar to primroses apart from the fact that their flowers bloom in long-stemmed clusters. Their colours are equally vibrant though – and there are some new varieties on the market that have the added bonus of being scented.