There’s more to autumn than gold
With Diarmuid Gavin If you’re not ready to give up on colour, pick flowers that bloom when the weather cools
Autumn gardening tends to be associated with the changing colours of leaves, where green turns to gold and russet. But it is also a time for some flowers to give us their best – so there is still plenty of colour from blossoms as well as foliage.
This week, I’m going to talk about revitalising summer pots with some autumn glory.
The chrysanthemum comes into its prime this season and can provide you with flowers until November and even December with the right care.
Possibly not the trendiest of species, it’s the right time for a fashionable reinvention in your plot. It is much revered in the Far East where it is the symbol of the emperor in Japan, and was often depicted in Chinese art throughout the centuries as a symbol of autumn and nobility.
The Korean and rubellum varieties are hardy enough for our climate – they are known as garden hardy mums – and there are plenty of col- ours to choose from.
‘ Emperor of China’ is an old variety with lovely silvery pink flowers opening from dark mauve buds. Also pink are the single daisy- like flowers of ‘ Clara Curtis’.
Look out for ‘ Nantyderry Sunshine’ for a zingy yellow, or you may prefer the warmer tones of russets and oranges of ‘ Burnt Orange’ and ‘ Paul Boissier’.
Heucheras are a great choice for your winter pots. Also known as Coral Bells, they send up wispy flowers in spring and summer but the main attraction is the foliage.
They have been bred in many different colours so you’ll be able to pick according to your scheme.
Deep purples and maroons such as ‘ Blackberry Jam’ and ‘ Forever Purple’ contrast beautifully with the vivid greens of ‘ Lime Marmalade’ and there are varieties in crimson, pink and apricot.
‘ Autumn Cascade’ is a mix of seasonal russets and reds, and with a semi- trailing habit would be beautiful in your hanging baskets as well.
They don’t like to dry out, so maintain your watering to keep them looking good. Otherwise, they are pretty easy to care for and keep disease free – as a bonus slugs and snails aren’t hugely tempted by them.
There are trays of attractive cyclamen in the garden shops at the moment and it’s hard to resist their perfect blooms in white, vivid pink and scarlet red combined with the decorative foliage. Ask for hardy varieties – florist varieties will only survive indoors but Cyclamen hederifolium, for example, will not blink at frost.
Bear in mind when planting autumnal bedding such as cyclamen that they won’t be putting on much growth in winter, so arrange them closely together.
Green foliage is the natural partner to any burst of colour and there are plenty of possibilities from the classic topiary box balls and spheres to pyra- mid laurels. These make elegant focal points in a pot and can be garlanded below with some pretty violas, bellis perennis and polyanthus.
For a less structured appearance in a pot, you could plant some hardy herbs such as sage and rosemary, or use evergreen ferns and sedges.
Finally, some housekeeping advice – it is a good idea to refresh your planting medium.
Throw out the old summer stuff onto your compost heap or in your borders somewhere.
If you’re forgetful about watering, position your pots where they will catch some rain.
If you position them in a sheltered spot under the eaves near the house, you will need to tend to them regularly.