Give your autumn balcony a colour boost Give your autumn balcony a colour boost

Whatever the weather, you can bring an Indian summer onto your balcony or patio for not much money and even less work.


This is the time when garden centres rush to get rid of all summer stock so check out the bargain bin at your local garden centre for great deals that will provide a burst of colour over the coming weeks, especially plants from bulbs and tubers that will flower again the following summer. Begonias, for instance, will still give you plenty of blooms, and when they’ve finished flowering, each tuber can be tucked away in a paper bag for repotting next spring.   It’s worth splashing out, though, on Begonia Glowing Embers, which still has masses of small bright orange flowers dotted over burnished foliage, hinting of the season to come. Dahlias, from the powderpuff heads to simple daisy flowers, offer tremendous value. Cannas, with their firecracker yellow, pink and flame flowers and flamboyant foliage add more than a touch of the tropics to any container display, yet at some garden centres they’re being sold off for just £5 each. Once they’ve finished  cut them down and keep the rhizome – the bulb – in a frost-free place over winter. With a little care, one solitary canna rhizome will keep blooming for years to come, making it a great investment.


Seek out a few long-playing perennials that have been going through summer, and will keep on going till the first frosts. Top of the list is the salvia in its many varieties, from bushy, bi-coloured red and white Hot Lips to the showstopping Black And Blue, which has foot-long, dark flowering spikes of deep purple-blue tubular flowers and dark green leaves scented with the familiar sage. Late-flowering Japanese anemones, with their cupped daisy flowers on tall stems, romp through borders, but the dwarf Pretty Lady quartet, just reaching 60cm and in shades of shell to sugar pink, are better behaved and perfect for pots. The Indian Summer range of heucheras all have gorgeously ruffled evergreen foliage in a sumptuous colour range from Lime Marmalade, Coral and Cranberry through to Tayberry and Blackberry, making it the perfect transitional plant.  Two more spring-to-autumn flower factories that thrive in containers: Scabious Butterfly Blue and Geum Totally Tangerine.

TIP Succulents make great no-maintenance tabletop displays, and when autumn sets in, can be brought indoors to a bright spot where they will keep ticking over until next summer. Better yet, buy a small pot of sempervivums – houseleeks – that are perfectly hardy, so can decorate your garden table all year round. Transplant them into a wide terracotta bowl, mulch with gravel, and the ‘pups’ – baby plants – will multiply and spread.


Squeeze the last drops of summer from the plants you already have. Cut off faded flowering stems down to their base and you are likely to be rewarded with a second flush, especially if you give the plant a pickup of dilute seaweed or tomato feed, twice weekly. Bedding geraniums will bloom twice as much – and for far longer – if you keep deadheading spent flowers and water at the roots, on a daily basis. Now that lavender has flowered, shear over the whole plant to give it fresh life as a rounded, sculptural evergrey.

TIP  Boost your container display by bringing out your houseplants. They  benefit from  the great outdoors. If it rains, so much the better.


September is a great time to cheat with a few fake flowers placed strategically among  your real ones. Try  the exotic bird  of paradise, with those extraordinary bird-like flowers, or a Paradise palm. Who would know?

Photography by GAP Photos