Autumn’s an important season to prepare for garden colour in late winter and spring. It’s a good idea, though, to get flowers well established before winter because they’ll slow down in cold weather. Be aware, too, that day length affects plant growth. Even though daytime temperatures might still be quite mild, many plants will grow more slowly as the days get shorter.

Lots of favourite flowers can be sown economically from seed in early autumn. These will then be ready for planting out into the garden or larger containers before the arrival of winter. Here are some choice varieties you can grow from Yates seeds:

  • Hollyhocks, because they grow up to two metres tall, need a wind-sheltered spot in full sun. In most places Hollyhock Double Elegance’s puffs of multi-petalled flowers will appear next spring but, where it’s very cold, they may not bloom until the second year. Regardless of this, these striking garden flowers are well worth having.
  • Pansies and violas, are closely related to each other. Both are best sown into pots or trays of Yates Seed Raising Mix and transplanted carefully once the seedlings are big enough. While there are many varieties, one of the most unusual is Yates Pansy Black Night
  • Sweet pea is possibly the most popular flower seed for autumn sowing. Traditional favourite sweet peas are climbers that need support but there are others suited to pots. Sow direct into well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Make sure you have a Yates Rose Shield on hand to treat mildew as soon as it appears.
  • Aquilegia’s  (pictured), name is a bit of a mouthful but, fortunately, this cottagey flower is also known by the friendlier ‘columbine’. The pretty blooms with backwards spurs come in a range of pastel bi-colours. These plants do best in cool climates but, where it’s warmer, will flourish in semi shade. If happy, aquilegias can last for a number of years.
  • Calendulas are useful because their cheerful orange and yellow daisies add warmth to the winter garden. They’re also helpful for deterring insect pests like white fly so it’s a good idea to plant them all around the garden – even among the vegies! Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty’ flowers in a range of colour shades from soft salmon to deep orange.
  • Cornflowers are synonymous with blue but also come in pink, rose, lavender, white and other colours. Start seeds in pots of Yates Seed Raising Mix and plant out about 40cm apart. They’re great for picking.
  • Sweet william is a form of dianthus, a close relative of the carnation. The flowers have a charming spikiness due to the small leaflets that sit below the clustered heads. All dianthus like sweet soil so, in acid areas, mix in some Yates Garden Lime before planting. The flowers are edible and make pretty garnishes.

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