Many gardeners fear that the garden is ‘over’ once autumn arrives, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. With a little planning, and the right plants, your garden can be as stunning in the autumn as it was in the summer, standing out against the dramatic backdrop of changing colours provided by the surrounding trees. It’s not just foliage that adds colour to the garden at this time of year, though, as there are plenty of beautiful autumn flowers. Here we pick five of the best for your garden.
Sedums have large heads of tiny, star-like flowers, held upright on strong stems above crimped, succulent foliage. They offer a late buffet for garden insects, so don’t be surprised to find them covered in bees and butterflies on bright days. Sedum telephium ‘Purple Emperor’ is particularly colourful, boasting wide panicles of ruby-red flowers, held aloft on striking burgundy-black foliage. It’s an excellent choice for sunny borders and exotic planting schemes, and holds an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Height and spread are both 45cm (18”) for this perennial plant.
If you tend more towards cool colours in your flower beds, then you can’t go wrong with Aster ‘Little Carlow’, which produces a profusion of violet-blue daisy-like flowers with yellow centres. It will flower from late summer through to mid-autumn, creating a frothy display of flowers on its softer stems. A pretty and cheerful plant, ‘Little Carlow’ loves a shadier spot, and a moist soil. This hardy perennial rises to around 90cm (36”), and really is dazzling, particularly in evening light.
Although we think of spring as the peak time for bulbs, there are also stunning varieties that flower in the autumn and produce useful spots of colour in the garden. Most autumn crocuses, the Colchichums, bloom in September and October, suddenly erupting from bare earth without producing leaves first – which gives them their common name of ‘naked ladies’. A particularly lovely variety is ‘Waterlily’, which has large and dramatic purple-pink blooms. Its foliage is large and floppy and grows in spring, and it’s an ideal choice for popping into the front of a sunny border, or naturalising in a patch of grass.
Coming from South Africa, most nerines are tender bulbs, most suited to life in the greenhouse. Nerine bowdenii is the hardiest, and can be planted into a warm and sunny border, particularly if it is backed by the shelter and warmth provided by a wall. If you can find a south- or west-facing location, in full sun with well-drained soil, then this plant will reward you with a late display of stunning, lipstick-pink flowers with frilly, curled petals.
Alternatively, add a carpet of gold to your garden with the autumn daffodil, Sternbergia lutea. In a warm and sunny spot with good drainage, this is a wonderful plant for producing rich displays of golden-yellow goblet-shaped flowers.
There’s no need to be glum that summer is over, or to ‘put the garden to bed’ just yet. Invest in some beautiful flowers, and enjoy the golden days of autumn.