Sell: Keep the colour going in your garden long after summer.
While summer planting has had its moment, there are plenty of plants that are absolutely at their peak right now. And in many ways focusing at least some of your garden on autumn interest makes sense. You’re more likely to be around after summer jaunts and the bold flowers, fab foliage and shiny berries will give you a lift as the weather cools – especially on those bright autumn mornings. Here’s my pick of the key ingredients to make your garden dazzle its way into winter.
Must have trees
One of my favourite trees for a small garden, for many reasons, not least its stunning orange/red autumn leaves. Particularly nice as a multi-stem.
Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ (Rowan)
Another fab tree for a town garden (max height 10m) with magnificent scarlet leaves and clusters of yellow berries in autumn.
Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ (Japanese maple)
A neat and elegant acer with purple leaves turning intense scarlet in autumn. At 6m tall it’s fine for most town gardens.
Sedum gets better throughout the autumn. This one has clusters of starry, pale plum flowers, coppery foliage and striking dark purple stems. Or try sedum ‘Ruby Glow’ with deep red flowers. Lovely with silvers and grasses.
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
Even if you don’t usually like yellow in your garden, you might make an exception for these lovely golden daisies with their striking black eye that’ll light up the garden until October.
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Star of the East’
Another sunny choice, this crocosmia has large orange brown flowers into October and a clump of lovely green sword shaped leaves adding summer interest.
With small clusters of purple flowers atop long stems, this looks great popping up amongst grasses and complements warmer yellows.
Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ (Aster)
The gentle lavender blues of asters go with anything. I love ‘Little Carlow’ with its mass of small violet blue daisies into mid autumn, (1m). Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ is another to look out for.
If you have room, (they can reach 2m) this is king of grasses with airy oat-like flower heads turning pale yellow in autumn – wonderful when back lit.
Calamagrostis x acutifolia ‘Karl Foerster’
A tall upright grass with straw coloured flowers in autumn. Stipa calamagrostis has similar flower heads, but has shorter arching branches.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’
Some miscathus can be huge but this one (up to 1m) doesn’t take up too much space and the purple flower heads turn silvery in autumn and shimmer beautifully in the light.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’
Known as foxtail grasses, pennisetum come into their own in autumn with their pretty fluffy seed heads. This one has long lasting pink flowers and yellow foliage in autumn (1.2m). But there are masses of others to choose from.
Cotinus ‘Grace’ (Smoke bush)
A gorgeous shrub with large rounded purple leaves turning a brilliant pinky red in autumn. Reaching 6m it’s great for screening, but keep it contained by hard pruning in spring.
Ceratostigma willmottianum ‘Forest Blue’ (Chinese plumbago)
This smaller shrub (up to 1m) will light up the garden with its mass of cobalt blue flowers into October when the foliage turns rich red too.
Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’
With pretty green leaves in summer, this is really grown for it’s bright orange-yellow autumn foliage revealing colourful stems with fiery red tips in winter. Stunning against a dark green backdrop. Cut down to the base in March for the best colour.
Barbara Samitier is a garden designer who lives in Peckham Rye.
This article first appeared in the October 2016 issue of SE22 magazine.