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Autumn: A Special Time For Gardeners

Autumn: A Special Time For Gardeners

When the daylight hours have really shortened and there is that special light we are in Autumn. The leaves are starting to change to more muted tones before they fall and there is a sense that everything in the garden is winding down for a good sleep. For gardeners it’s a special time as we prepare for another year of plant delights.

Planting in autumn allows more time for new roots to grow in warm soil so plants are less vulnerable to dry periods the following summer. The colder soil during the winter encourages flowering as soon as the weather warms up. Evergreens become particularly well established in autumn without the difficult fluctuations of spring weather and need less water to establish.

Autumn is also the time to plant all spring flowering bulbs like daffodils crocus and tulips and change the summer flowering bedding plants in our patio tubs to primroses winter pansies and violas. 

Towards the end of October is the best time to plant hedges and soft fruit which are usually available as bareroot plants, an economic way to buy them, when you are planting larger quantities.

It is a good time to take stock of what is actually providing that last burst of colour and interest to our gardens before winter sets in. Here are some additions you might like to include to increase the spectacle.

Two new varieties of the Smoke Bush Cotinus are a must. The pale orange new leaves of Cotinus Golden Lady in spring turn a gorgeous pure yellow in summer and then brilliant orange in autumn before leaf fall. It is a large shrub for the back of a border which is easy to grow bushy and drought tolerant. It is a good foil for Cotinus Lilla which is a compact form growing to 1m with rich purple leaves from spring to autumn when the foliage turns pink orange scarlet and red.

Another new variety is Weigela florida Sunn Fantasy. It has a very long flowering period from May to October with interesting colourful leaves variegated green cream and red that show good autumn colour before leaf fall. It is very easy to grow, compact and performs well in patio tubs if garden space is limited. It is drought resistant like many weigelas and loves sunny places.

Physocarpus All Black is another dramatic deciduous shrub with very dark purple black foliage and stems in summer. The leaves in autumn turn red orange and yellow giving an entirely different contrast to any surrounding plants in the border. It has pink flowers in May and June and will thrive in sun or part shade.

New introductions for Buddleias are the Humdinger series. They are compact semi evergreen shrubs more suitable for smaller gardens and patio tubs. The flowers appear in early summer as 20 to 30 cm long panicles and last well into autumn. All varieties are very easy to grow in a sunny place and are loved by Butterflies Moths and Bees. Buddleia Little Angel has long white flowers and silvery foliage while B. Candy Little Lila has beautiful pale lilac flowers.

Another exciting semi evergreen shrub with especial autumn interest is Abelia Kaleidoscope. In spring the leaves are yellow and green intensifying in colour throughout summer and turning bright orange red and purple in autumn. The flowers are pale pink and appear in summer lasting well into autumn. It grows to about 1m and likes a sheltered sunny place and compost rich soil.

All borders in the garden benefit from some evergreens which keep the colour going when other plants have lost their leaves. Choisya Sundance is an absolute favourite with bright golden waxy leaves that when crushed have a herby scent. It also has white flowers during summer which smell of orange blossom. Another variety Choisya Goldfinger has the same golden foliage which is finely cut with white flowers in late spring a beautiful contrast when planted near Berberis Darts Red Lady.

Two Pittosporums are worth a mention for prolonging the evergreen theme. Pittosporum Tom Thumb has purple leaves which darken as the weather gets colder. In spring the new leaf growth is bright apple green with small dark honey scented flowers. It is small compact easy to grow and very drought tolerant a good contrast to Lavender and other silver foliage evergreens. Pittosporum Silver Queen is a larger variety with silver variegated decorative foliage much sort by flower arrangers.

It is worth a visit to browse the plant collections at the Garden Centre at this time of year there are so many other possibilities I haven’t space to introduce them all.

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