By October it really is time to pack away your summer bedding and prepare a couple of pots of winter colour to sit beside your front door. But whereas summer planting schemes were once exclusively made up from half hardy annual plants that were simply composted in autumn, I have noticed in recent years a move to mixed planting even in seasonal containers. So it is well worth knowing exactly what you can save for future use.
Of course there we still use plenty of annual plants and these will die in the autumn even if kept away from frost. The name tells you all you need to know: the plant completes its entire lifecycle within a year and then dies, relying on the seeds to produce new plants next year. Also there are some favourites like Petunias that may live for several years in their native habitat but are best grown as annuals in the UK. These are the plants that will feed your compost heap!
Grasses and herbaceous perennials are finding their way into summer planters too, like the Pennisetum in the photograph with its caterpillar like flower spikes and Heuchera, loved for their coloured leaves. Perennials can be planted out into a permanent space the garden in autumn, but cut the top growth off first to focus their energy on establishing strong roots.
Evergreens can give great structure to otherwise ephemeral planting. Small conifers and shrubs and trailing ivy are frequently used in containers and can simply be retained and the gaps filled with winter colour.
Finally, you might have half hardy shrubs and perennials including Pelargonium, Fuchsia and Verbena. These will live for several years but not survive frost so I take mine into the greenhouse, cut the soft growth off the top and keep them fairly dry through the winter. Come spring they will start into growth again ready to provide flowers again for another year.
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Happy Gardening, Alison