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ITH the record temperatures last week, followed by storms, change is in the air.

WAutumn is on the way and it will soon be time to pack away summer clothes for another year and dig out the jumpers and jackets.

The same goes for our hanging baskets, pots and containers - they are starting to fade and need a change of outfit for the new season.

Many bedding plants will be exhausted by this stage, having flowered continuously since May and are only fit for the compost heap. So as we approach autumn, let's look at what's suitable and will be hardy enough to look good through to next spring.

The first thing you need to consider is what container you are going to use. Good drainage is essential to avoid waterlogging during winter, so make sure the container you are using has drainage holes and layer some cracked terracotta pots or gravel at the bottom. If using terracotta pots, check they are frost proof.

Use a free-draining compost - for best results, discard old compost from pots and add some well-rotted garden compost and slow-release fertiliser.

Evergreen shrubs will make excellent focal points in pots. They provide good structure all-year round and can be enhanced by the addition of seasonal bedding throughout the year.

Topiary plants always look sharp and smart - this could be a small clipped conical bay or a box ball. Or you could go for something a bit quirkier - spiral or animal shapes.

Box is a good choice for shady spots and there are other evergreen shrubs like euonymus, skimmia and hebe which will also do a good job.

Evergreen sedges such as Carex suit life in containers and look attractive too. 'Frosted Curls' has striking silvery green foliage while 'Bowles Golden' has golden foliage that curves gracefully.

Black Mondo Grass Ophipogon 'Nigrescens' can look well in contemporary containers, planted with some spring bulbs that will change the look next season.

You can introduce some vibrant colour around your focal points by using winter bedding such as violas, bellis perennis and polyanthus. I'd pack these in fairly tightly as they're not going to grow a huge amount over the coming months.

While there are many tempting displays of bedding chrysanthemums remember these are not hardy and will need to be taken in before the first frost.

Similarly some of the bedding cyclamen on sale are tender too, so just check before you purchase if you intend them for outdoors.

Ornamental cabbage and kale are fun colourful additions whose pink and purple shades intensify as the weather gets colder.

Another way of introducing colour in winter is using plants that provide highlights in their foliage. For example, the silver of Helichrysum, cream and green trailing ivies, golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia 'Aurea') and Euonymus 'Emerald 'n' Gold'. While light levels are OK now, you need to try and visualise what will cheer you up on a grey November day.

Probably the best foliage plant is heuchera which comes in an array of colours.

You can have delicious 'Key Lime Pie' with its bright green ruffles, 'Marmalade' which has bright pink undersides or the classic 'Palace Purple'.

Choose evergreen ferns such as the native Hart's Tongue Fern and the soft shield fern Polystichum setiferum.

Erica carnea cultivars come mainly in white and pink flowers. They would look lovely planted in a row in small individual pots. And, unlike many heathers, they don't require acidic soil so will mix happily with any of your other choices.


If you made leaf mould from last year's fall, this would be ideal to add to their pots as they like slightly acidic and humus-rich compost. Finally, winter-flowering heathers are a good low-maintenance option for pots.

Heather in box or pot are a good low-maintenance option, above, while polyanthus, left, will add vibrant colour to your garden

Encourage warmth with bellis perennis
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 1, 2016
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