Now that the nights are drawing in and the children are back at school, our gardening correspondent Manoj Malde explains how to make the most of the new season.
A chill is in the air and it’s that magical time of year before winter sets in. The herbaceous borders are bursting with the flush of autumn colours that glow with the low sun shining through the stems. There is lots of work to be done in the garden in preparation for the following year. Autumn is an ideal time to be planting. The earth is still warm and there will be some rain so the plants will settle in well before winter sets in. Plant in odd numbers and in tiers. Use shorter plants at the front and tall ones at the back of the border. Mix spikes and spires with mop-heads and bobbles. Think verticals and horizontals combined with clouds and transparents and you will create a dramatic and interesting planting scheme.
Use tall elegant grasses to create a back drop in herbaceous borders for the jewel box of autumn colours. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’ (picture 1 below) and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ are an excellent choice. Grasses provide texture, silhouette and movement that look stunning in the low autumn light. Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ and Stipa lessingiana are shorter grasses that add a soft airy quality to the border and act as a foil for autumn plants such as Achillea, Rudbeckia, Knautia and Echinacea.
Autumn is the season for daisy flowering plants. Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ (2) is one of my favourites. It’s one for the back of the border as it can grow to two meters tall. Keep dead heading and it will continue to flower until the first frost. There is a huge range of Asters (Michaelmas daisy) that come in various heights and colours. Symphotrichum novi-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ (3) will brighten up a border with its deep violet flowers. Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ (4) is a popular variety bearing masses of lilac flowers. Erigeron karvinskianus has a profusion of small white daisy flowers that flush pink. Use it to fill gaps or as under-planting in containers. It is a great plant for adding maturity to a garden quickly as it self-seeds into cracks in brickwork and pathways.
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ grows to 1.8 meters tall and produces long elegant spikes of dainty lilac pink flowers. Although these may have gone to seed by September the seed heads also provide interest within the border so do not cut them down. Seeds heads, hips and berries do not only create interest in a border but help the garden to transition from autumn through to winter. Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ (5) has tall thin flowers stems rising from lush green foliage. These are topped off with spikes of tiny red flowers.
When I design gardens for client’s, evergreen shrubs are very important. I want my clients to enjoy the garden through autumn and winter. For deciduous plants I consider colours and branch structure. Euonymus alatus compactus turns a fiery red. Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii (6) is adorned with berries that look like small purple beads. Viburnum davidii is an evergreen shrub with dark green glossy leaves. It produces metallic blue berries in autumn. Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Pinky Beauty’ has white flowers through summer which flush up strawberry pink in autumn.
If considering tree for autumn colour look at the following Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ (7) is a small tree with lovely open branch structure. Its leaves turn fiery red and it also has pretty red and orange berries. Rhus typhina (main picture) is commonly known as Staghorn Sumac because of its branch structure that looks like stag’s antlers. It’s foliage gradually turns from golden yellow to vivid orange through to red. Rhus typhina also produces velvety cones. Acer griseum provides not only brilliant colour but interest through its peeling bark. Acers are a family of trees that provide elegance with their graceful branches and wonderful autumn foliage. Others to consider are Amelanchier Canadensis, Cornus kousa var. ‘Chinensis’, Parrotia persica and Nyssa sylvatica.
Take the opportunity to visit some of the superb arboretums we have in the England. They are perfect places to take in the glory of autumn. Here are some of our favourites:
Batsford Arboretum and Garden Centre
Manoj Malde is a landscape designer. His company Couture Gardens provides a full garden design service and regular maintenance.