Autumn is a fantastic time of year in the garden, with trees and shrubs firing up to create sizzling leafy displays of orange, red and gold, and a range of sumptuous berries sparkling like jewels in the sun. It’s also the perfect time to plant bulbs, including daffodils, grape hyacinths and crocuses, which will flower next spring. This week I’ve been planting bulbs in baskets, together with some other beautiful plants that will look great now, and throughout the winter and into spring. Just follow these simple steps…
Berry basket recipe
In contrast to the vibrant reds and oranges you often see at this time of year, I’ve created a more subtle mix of ice cream pastels, with a stunning hypericum called ‘Magical Beauty’, which has gorgeous pink berries in late summer and autumn; cream and mauve violas that will flower from now until next May; a pretty evergreen frosted sedge grass; and trailing periwinkle, which is also evergreen and has beautiful blue flowers in spring. I’ve also squeezed in some variegated thyme and a few fragrant daffs called ‘Pipet’, which will burst into flower next March. I’ve set this basket alongside a smaller one filled with purple violas that I was given recently as a gift. These plants are all widely available, but if you have trouble finding the hypericum, check out J Parker’s here
You will need:
1 x large basket or frost-proof planter
1 x Hypericum ‘Magical Beauty’
2 x Frosted Sedge Grass (Carex ‘Frosted Curls’)
1 x pack of 6 violas
3 x small pots of variegated thyme
1 x periwinkle (Vinca minor ‘Argenteovariegata’
1. If your basket doesn’t have an integral plastic liner, line it with a strong plastic bag. Make some holes in the liner to allow water to drain through. Then add a few broken clay pot pieces to cover the holes and prevent them clogging up with compost.
2. Water all the plants thoroughly. Add some multi-purpose compost to the bottom of the basket and remove the hypericum from its pot. Set it on the compost, checking that the top of the root ball is about 5cm (2in) from the top of the basket. Gently tease out the roots if they are congested at the bottom or sides of the root ball.
3. Place a few daffodil bulbs on the compost around the hypericum root ball. Plant them with the pointed tip at the top, and the flat base at the bottom. Then cover them with some compost.
4. Remove the other plants from their pots and plant up around the hypericum, with the grasses on one side, the thyme around the outer edges, and the periwinkle trailing over the other side. Fill in the gaps with the violas. You can pack in the plants quite tightly as they won’t grow much over winter.
5. Finally, fill in any gaps between the plants with more compost. Firm gently, and water in well. Then set your basket outside where you can admire it through the autumn, winter and spring. The hypericum will lose its leaves in winter, but they will grow again in spring. The plants will be quite happy for a season or two in their basket, but repot them after that when they start to outgrow the space.
I bought this basket from my local garden centre, Burston, which is in St Albans in Hertfordshire, but I found some other baskets with zinc liners that caught my eye on the Pretty and Chic website. Great if you want to combine rustic with a more contemporary look, the zinc liners will also make the baskets more durable.
Big and berry beautiful
There are lots of fabulous berried plants, and I have two of favourites in my garden, currently showing off in their full regalia. One is Cotoneaster lacteus, which has graceful arching branches studded with bright red berries at this time of the year. An evergreen shrub, it grows very quickly to make a large plant and is ideal for a boundary fence or the back of a border.
I also love the Himalayan honeysuckle or Leycesteria. This is the easiest plant to grow and will thrive in almost any site and soil, producing 2m-high stems dripping with these amazing clusters of dark purple berries topped with maroon bracts. Give it a bit of elbow room so that you can appreciate its elegant form.
Both plants are widely available or order them from Burncoose Nurseries
And finally, if you need inspiration, take a trip to Wisley in Surrey to see their huge range of plants, with an abundance of dazzling berries and autumn leaves. Later this month, from 20-23rd October, Wisley is also hosting A Taste of Autumn festival, where you try all sorts of apple varieties, learn how to make the most of your autumn produce at the cookery demonstrations, and buy delicious treats from the food stalls. Visit the RHS garden website for details.
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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert
View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert