I love the start of autumn – I love the crisp, bright air, the quality of the light and the promise of cosy evenings. That said, it’s heart-wrenching to bid farewell to summer! Through the start of September (in the UK at least), our summer bedding displays are beginning to reach the end of the road, and I’m really loath
to let them go. To cheer myself up, around this time that I start to plan my winter and spring garden schemes. Clearing out summer bedding and replacing it with spring bulbs and winter bedding is a great way to stay busy in the autumn garden, and it’ll really give you something to look forward to next year.
Clearing your summer borders
Remove whole bedding plants as they reach the end of their lifespan to prevent them self-seeding, and fork over the areas to aerate the soil. It’s a great idea to mix through some well-rotted manure or compost (read my article on making your own compost here). You can also trim back woody stems such as rosemary and lavender here to ensure they grow back with a pleasing shape.
Planting spring bulbs
This is a big job, but it’s really satisfying to can think ahead to the amazing displays of daffs, narcissii, crocuses, alliums, tulips and fritillary you’ll be enjoying once the days start to lengthen again. Try to get ahead of the crowds at the garden centre, as the best bulbs disappear quickly! Don’t skimp on your purchases either, as this usually turns out to be false economy. I look for plump, healthy bulbs with no visible signs of damage or bruising, and plant them out straight away. You can opt to plant them in regular patterns, or scatter them and plant where they fall for a more natural finish.
When planting your bulbs, a good rule of thumb is to bury them at a depth of about three times the bulb’s height. If there are lots of bulbs to plant, it’s fun to use a special bulb-planting tool that will make sure to gouge the soil deeply enough – even little ones enjoy this game. If your soil is heavy or clay-based, sprinkle some coarse sand into the bottom of the hole to improve drainage in the rooting area. Then, replace the soil over the top of the bulb and pat down gently. Easy!
Planting your winter bedding
I love plants that provide a welcome splash of colour over the winter. Here are a couple of great plug plants to buy and add to your beds now.
- Winter-flowering pansies are a firm favourite in winter displays thanks to their huge range of bright shades like purple, orange, blue and red. They thrive in full sun, but are happy in partial shade, making them ideal for winter hanging baskets as well as bedding.
- Wallflowers are a rustic, vigorous plant with a very relaxed growing habit – perfect for a more informal feel. Their greenery is pleasing throughout winter, and varieties like ‘Sugar Rush’ will bloom into early winter if the weather is kind.
- Violas are hardy beauties with an abundance of colourful blooms on sturdy stems. Some varieties have a lovely scent that’s a sure pick-me-up for the winter.
- Polyanthus have long-lasting, brightly coloured flowers from January through to May. Keep on top of deadheading them to encourage more blooms.
- Cyclamen give a gorgeous woodland effect, and self-seed each year to ensure a carpet of blooms through deepest, darkest winter. They look great next to snowdrops.
- Plant out some stocks now for a charming winter rosette of leaves, and they’ll reward you with a fabulously colourful display come spring.