Flowers for instant impact

Posted: Monday 14 October 2013
by Adam Pasco

While autumn opens the final chapter for many flowers, it's also an opportunity to introduce new seasonal plants...

Blue viola

As I watch the confetti of golden leaves fluttering from a silver birch onto my lawn, I know autumn has arrived. Yes, the garden is undergoing a transformation, and dropping temperatures are changing green leaves into fiery shades before they brown and fall.

While autumn opens the final chapter for many flowers, it's also an opportunity to introduce new seasonal plants that provide displays to brighten even the dullest days, and bedding plants are top of my shopping list.

I'm a sucker for dainty violas. Their cheerful faces make me smile. These resilient little bedding plants are always available to buy in full flower, so you can pick colours to suit your scheme. Bright new faces open up to welcome you almost daily, so just pick off faded ones to keep displays looking tidy and ensure a succession of flowers follow.

Their larger-faced relatives are available now too, with a wonderful assortment of pansies providing colourful petal combinations, many with delicate cat's whisker stripes and blotches. None of these varieties grow very tall, but some are less compact than others, spreading or trailing as they grow. If after a few months the new growth starts looking lanky, and plants get bare at the centre, just snip back a few of the longest stems to within a few inches of their base. Side-shoots soon develop to fill gaps, with further flowers quickly following.

Rather than planting into beds and borders, I tend to keep autumn bedding in pots and baskets, positioning them close to the house where I can enjoy them every time I glance outside.

Cold-tolerant pansies and violas can be grown in generous bold blocks alone or partnered with other seasonal favourites such as dwarf and compact cyclamen, varieties of sedum, dwarf flowering shrubs (for example, skimmia), or bright berrying forms of hypericum, gaultheria, berberis, cotoneaster, pyracantha, Viburnum davidii and a host of others.

No, there's no reason for your garden to be shutting-up shop for autumn when there are so many plants available to inject new colour. Of course, you'll be thinking ahead and planting bulbs that burst into life next spring, but we've several months before then.

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