In the Garden – Autumn

What a wonderful summer display of hollyhocks, roses, gladioli and poppies. Red hot pokers (kniphofias) in their hues of limes, yellows, oranges and reds have put on a magnificent show. Crocosmias in similar shades have also added to the colourful mix. The tall slender purple flowering annual Verbena bonariensis has relished the hot season and will produce a forest of seedlings for next year if seed heads are left to germinate.

The lacecap Hydrangea villosa and the Hortensia mophead group are looking good. There are many interesting varieties of this seaside stalwart. Hydrangea paniculata Limelight has yellow-cream broad conical shaped flowers and makes a great display until the autumn. Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle produces large creamy-white flowers. The Black Steel varieties of Zambia, Zara and Zebra have dramatic black stems which contrast well with the beautiful flower heads.

Popularised in recent years by the introduction of the dark leaf Bishop varieties, Dahlias provide long lasting colour until the first frosts and enjoy the hot days of summer. Whether you are a fan of the open centred blooms, cactus, water lily or pompom shape flowers, there are many beautiful dahlias.

Heucheras with their vast array of leaf colour – ranging from green/yellow/gold through to pink/coral to deep purple – have delicate flower spikes and are a worthy addition to the garden.

Hardy fuchsias add colour when many herbaceous perennials have finished flowering. They perform best in sunny, moist conditions. Their tender cultivars need protection from frost. Zauschneria (Californian fuchsia) and Phygelius (Cape fuchsia) with their narrow trumpet shaped flowers also provide long lasting colour if dead-headed regularly.

Agapanthus and Hemerocallis (day lilies) love the sun-baked conditions but do need dividing when forming large clumps. Phormiums (New Zealand flax) with their sword-like shaped leaves can outgrow their space and should also be divided when this occurs. If the plants have become massive the best option, using a sturdy spade and fork, is to dig out the whole plant, separate the individual plants and then replant the smaller plants. This task can be repeated easily when tackled on a frequent basis. If space is at a premium go for the smaller ‘cookianum’ varieties.

Grasses provide interest at this time of year. From the miniatures of the Carex Evergold, Festuca Elijah Blue, Ophiopogon Nigrescens, and Uncinia Rubra to the larger Miscanthus Zebrinus or Pennisetum Hameln, there is a grass for every situation.

Caryopteris, the late summer blue flowering shrub with aromatic foliage, is a good plant for the border as are the two Ceratostigmas – Plumbaginoides and Willmottianum – which also have distinct blue flowers at this time of year.

Deutzia, Escallonia, Kolkwitzia, Philadelphus, Senecio, Spiraea and other early summer flowering shrubs will benefit from pruning to keep them tidy and this will encourage new growth for next year’s blooms. Likewise, Perovskias, Salvias, Santolina, Nepeta, Lavender and Rosemary will also perform better if trimmed after they have flowered.