5 Cheap Ways to Brighten Your Garden for Autumn & Winter

Now that Autumn has really set in, the bright annuals of summer have faded and it’s time to look at where we can fill the gaps with some winter colour. Of course, as I’m living on a tight budget I’ve got to be very thrifty about the plants that I purchase. If you’re looking to brighten your front garden with cheap plants this winter, this is the post for you!


Let’s admit it – when it comes to the kerb appeal of our houses, many of us feel compelled to “keep up with the Joneses”! I hate to admit that the older I’ve got, the more I’ve wanted to feel a sense of pride when considering how my little tumbledown semi-detached cottage looks to the rest of the world! And in our case, there are a fair few “Joneses” down our road who have beautiful front gardens. It’s a good thing really, as I think many front gardens are so utilitarian and sterile these days. I love seeing a tiny patch of garden that really makes an impact – it’s like a little lift that brightens your day, especially when it’s buzzing with wildlife. This year I’d like to brighten our front garden in winter too, so that it serves as a little beacon of colour and fun in our street. 

Here are my recommendations for 5 Cheap Ways to Brighten Your Front Garden for Autumn & Winter – get planting now and you can enjoy colour through until next Spring, without spending a fortune:

1. Pansies & Violas
The number of pansy and viola varieties now available is stunning! Whatever your colour scheme, there’s a cultivar for you. If you’re a fan of frills and like a splash of frou-frou, there are also frilly and frizzle pansies to enjoy in a selection of heady mixes and colour combinations. And if the budget allows, they also make great hanging basket plants, when teamed with the likes of cascading, trailing ivy and variegated euonymus and skimmia. 

2. Winter-Flowering Wallflowers (Erysimum)
There are many bold, bright and beautiful winter-flowering varieties of winter-flowering wallflowers to enjoy. Hardy and perennial (although they often need a good haircut once they’ve finished flowering, and should be replaced after about three years), wallflowers are really great value for money and should last through to spring time. October or a mild November is really your last chance to get them in for a winter display, though. And if you want to continue sharing the wallflower love, autumn is also a great time of year to plant wallflowers for a spring display. Buy them bare root in bunches, to save lots of pennies and pounds! But be sure to get the plants in the ground quickly and give them a good water once in situ.  

3. Sweet Williams
If you’re a fan of delicate cottage garden flowers but long for some bold colour, then try Sweet Williams. Strictly speaking, these hardy plants won’t provide colour over winter, as they can flower until late Autumn once established. But you’ll be rewarded when they give another burst of colour again in the spring. 

Pink heather in autumn

4. Winter Flowering Heather
Hardy winter heathers add delicate waves of colour in any garden, are hardy, relatively cheap to buy and pretty fuss-free. Purples, pinks and whites can be planted to complement a whole host of cottage winter-flowering plants. Fiery reds, oranges and yellow varieties can also create a striking display, and will stand up to some stark weather conditions. I implore you though – please, PLEASE don’t go for the day-glo bright heathers found on supermarket shelves!

5. Cyclamen
These will come back year after year – you can opt for Autumn-flowering Cyclamen hederifolium, which will create pockets of colour and charm, as well as decorative foliage once the flowers die back. Just make sure you mulch well around the young plants when you put them in the ground. 

Want more winter colour? Check out this link for inspiration for winter planting flowers in containers!

Save Even More on Inexpensive Autumn and Winter Planting

Of course, truly the cheapest way of adding colour to your autumn and winter garden is to pre-plan, buy seed and sow your flowers months or weeks ahead of the season! But be sure to check the seed packets for best time to sow (so you don’t miss your window), and whether your chosen flowers and plants are annual, perennial or biennial. If they’re biennial, then you might have to wait a few more months to enjoy the spoils of your labour. But trust me – you’ll be glad you did. 

Making my garden sing in September

I always find that August is a bit of an off-green month for me – summer is fading and everything is feeling tired and over the long, relentless, dry days. September, on the other hand, is a delight, bringing back a burst of colour in the garden. Berries, leaves on the turn, second flushes of roses, late buddleias in bloom, delicate cosmos, and of course magnificent displays of dahlias help to give the garden one last almight HURRAH! before the frosts descend.

I should hold my hands up and admit that I used to think that dahlias were naff – frou frou pom-pom plants that looked a bit twee. But as I’ve discovered the abundance of varieties currently grown, from the jewel-bright bold to the delicately tinged petals, I’ve started to fall in love, just a little bit.

pink dahlia flower

My front garden is soon to be home to two new varieties of dahlia, alongside the main dahlia plant that’s currently blooming for Britain, and the two self-seeded plants that I’ve left to mature. I’ve forsaken the overcrowded, slightly rusty crocosmia to make space for some “new blood”. I want my tiny front garden to sing in Autumn, a welcome sight amongst the utilitarian front gardens of suburbia (though, I have to add, there are three front gardens down my little road that I covet – beautiful little cottage gardens – and I think we’re all starting to get a little competitive now. It’s a good thing…).

As I rarely buy full-price plants, always keen to rescue from the reduced/neglected/poorly department of any garden centre of nursery, it’s no surprise really that we got two more dahlias at the weekend on a BOGOF deal. These two beauties should return with vim and vigour next year, although they’ll be replacing some of the heleniums under the cherry tree, adding some much-needed colour from a different end of the spectrum to pop amongst a sea of yellow.

Large pink dahlia flower

I look forward to exploring more dahlia varieties in spring – so after our recent purchases are safely planted in situ, as it’s now bulb-buying season my attentions will soon be turning to creating a riot of spring cheer. That’s tulips, narcissi and alliums to you and me! Bring on the flower catalogues!

An opportunity presents itself

This is going to be one of those annoying, vague posts that hints at something exciting and tantalising, without revealing much. Sorry. All I will say for now is “flowers”.

An opportunity has unexpectedly fallen into my lap. Things like this don’t often happen to me, and I feel that I might be at the start of a little adventure. After a summer of heartache, grief and a bit of an ongoing struggle, this is just what I needed. A little burning, bright light at the end of a tunnel to stumble towards.

I’ll reveal more when the details become clearer; for now, everything is in preliminary stages – lots of ideas floating around that need to be put into writing. Brainstorms that need to be had, plans that need to be drawn up. Spreadsheets that need creating. Lots and lots of research. Pouring over books. Surveying.

Hard work, but heavenly. A turn in the right direction.

I’ll keep you posted.