As summer draws to a close and plants in pots start looking tired, it’s time to give your containers a fresh new look for autumn and winter.
As well as making new plantings, consider brightening up existing containers. Give wooden troughs and window boxes a good sand before repainting them in whatever colour takes your fancy, but just make sure it complements the area rather than standing out like a sore thumb.
Retro lovers may like to recycle items like food cans and tins, colanders, old metal buckets or bread tins, old wooden crates or even brightly coloured plastic trugs (with drainage holes in the bottom) to use as containers.
If you only want to replace certain plants which have gone over, dig them out carefully with a hand fork and then replace the old compost with fresh, preferably the type which contains slow-release fertiliser and water-retaining gel. Fill in the gaps with temporary colourful autumn plants such as autumn cyclamen, pansies and violas, combined with dwarf marguerites and berried winter cherries.
Alternatively, once your summer annuals in pots are truly spent, plant up a cool mix of autumn stunners, combining flowers and fruits with ivies and other hardy foliage plants. Include colourful ornamental kales and cabbages, heucheras and cape heath and, when the weather really cools down, shelter displays as much as possible to keep them frost-free.
Chrysanthemums, which went out of fashion for years as they have a reputation for being time-consuming and needing tlc in the greenhouse, have improved. There are many varieties which come into their own in the autumn, producing masses of flowers from August until November, including C. ‘Mei-kyo’, a pink variety.
Hopefully the hardy pansies and violas should last right through autumn until the beginning of winter. All this should be complemented with eye-catching evergreen foliage plants as well as spring-flowering hardy primroses, polyanthus and winter-flowering heathers.
If you’re planting up containers in autumn, don’t forget to add some bulbs which will give you colour from late winter through to spring. The bulbous Reticulata irises flower in late winter and early spring and, being mainly blue, combine effectively with white and yellow Crocus chrysanthus cultivars.