Pot up some autumn colour
One aspect of gardening that has grown faster than any other in Britain over the last decade is undoubtedly container, or patio, gardening.
The number of summer hanging baskets and containers in this country has more than doubled since 1991. This is obviously a symptom of society’s love affair with outdoor leisure and entertaining.
However winter flowering baskets and containers are not as popular as their summer counterparts and as a result a lot of potential garden colour and interest is being lost. There are many autumn and winter options open to the container gardener, from spring bulbs for an early splash of colour, to evergreen shrubs for an all year round display.
Now is the ideal time to plan and plant up spring bulbs, topped off with winter pansies, wallflowers, polyanthus and daisies.
Whatever you intend to display, it is worth bearing in mind a few points during the preparation and planting. During the cooler autumn and winter conditions, plants do not need as much fertiliser as they do in summer, so the best compost choice is a universal type, rather than the full-strength potting or hanging basket formulations, which are designed for spring and summer use.
It is important that plants expected to produce a flowering display, even in low temperatures, do receive some form of nutrition. This can be difficult with liquid feeds as the very last thing you wish to do is fill your container with water when the weather is cold. Use controlled release fertiliser in the compost at the time of planting. This will ensure plants are fed when they need it but without any risk of root burn or wastage, as the granules do not release fertiliser when the conditions are too cold to support plant growth.
Water-logging can be a problem. Place a few broken shards of pottery in the base of the container to keep drainage holes clear, and use pot feet to ensure that water can escape freely and roots are kept off cold paving.
Elsewhere in the garden, it is time to plant new roses, shrubs and trees while the soil is still warm. buddleia, hebes, hypericum and hibiscus provide good autumn colour. For coloured berries and winter colour consider Cotoneaster, Pyracantha and Callicarpa. For winter and early spring colour look to Viburnum, Mahonia, Camellia and Corsythia.