Q. How can I add a little seasonal drama this month?

Deciduous shrubs and late flowers are key to a dazzling autumn says Louisa Gilhooly

Design for autumn colour

by Liz Potter |

The clocks have gone back and autumn is well and truly here. But just because it’s cold and damp doesn’t mean we all have to retreat indoors and go into hibernation mode! This design uses elements that keep the garden looking fabulous all year round, with ideas that encourage you outdoors whatever the weather, and plants that will fill the garden with structure and colour as others fade.

Choose your hard landscaping material carefully, opting for a hard-wearing surface such as textured porcelain or stone rather than wood, which can become slippery in damp weather. Think about adding eye-catching details to paving. A pattern of granite setts or bricks, which I’ve used here, provides another layer of interest as herbaceous flowers and foliage slowly die back.

Comfy chairs help create a cosy corner that encourages you to linger outdoors; keep a stash of warm blankets in a wicker basket by the back door so you can grab one when you want to sit outside. Gather the chairs around a fire pit on chilly evenings – one with a grill can be used for outdoor cooking, but make sure you use kiln-dried wood, which has less moisture in it, so it won’t produce too much smoke.

As for the planting, go for full-on autumn colour, using climbers to scramble up walls and fences, such as Virginia creeper (parthenocissus) with its flame-coloured foliage. Select trees and shrubs with fabulous seasonal leaf colour such as parrotia, liquidambar and rhus, all of which take on glorious shades of red, yellow and orange. Add in late-flowering perennials and intersperse these with clumps of ornamental grasses, which come into their own in autumn and continue to provide structure throughout winter.

Planting Plan for Autumn wow garden
Planting Plan for Autumn wow garden ©LOUISA GILHOOLY/BAUER


1 Larix kaempferi Vigorous deciduous larch with attractive pink spring buds, long light green needles that turn golden-yellow in autumn and tiny cones throughout winter. H12m+ (40ft+) S8m (26ft) in 50 years

2 Calamagrostis brachytricha Ornamental grass with clumps of arching foliage and tall, silvery-grey, feather-duster-like flowers in late summer and autumn. H1m (3ft 3in) S70cm (28in)

3 Aster frikartii ‘Mönch’ Bushy herbaceous perennial with yellow-centred, slender, lavender-blue daisies. A magnet for pollinating insects. H90cm (3ft) S40cm (16in)

4Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ Mid-sized, deciduous shrub with clusters of striking pinkish-purple berries and attractive autumn foliage. Needs fertile, well-drained soil. H4m (13ft) S2.5m (8ft)

5 Euonymus alatus Eye-catching shrub with a spreading habit, whose green oval leaves turn a vivid crimson in autumn. Produces purple-red fruit with exposed orange seeds. H and S2m (6½ft)

6 Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ Fabulous clump-forming semi-evergreen grass with masses of arching, strappy leaves that are bright yellow in sun and lime green in shade. H and S50cm (20in)

7 Anemone hybrida ‘September Charm’ Late-flowering perennial with mounds of dark green foliage and tall stems topped with rose-pink, yellow-eyed flowers Aug-Nov. H and S1m (3ft 3in)

8 Bergenia ‘Autumn Magic’ Low-growing, evergreen perennial with leathery, bottle-green leaves, tinged red in cold weather and clusters of pink flowers spring to autumn. H and S50cm (20in)

9 Parthenocissus quinquefolia Vigorous deciduous climber valued for its fiery red five-pointed autumn leaves. Needs regular pruning to keep under control. H12m+ (40ft+) S8m (26ft)

10 Parrotia persica Spreading, often multi-stemmed tree with attractive flaking bark and stunning yellow, red and purple autumn leaves. Small red flowers in winter. H8m (26ft) S9m (30ft)

11 Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Stared’ Tree with narrow, pyramidal canopy whose star-shaped, green leaves turn vibrant shades of red in autumn. H8m (26ft) S4m (13ft)

12 Rhus typhina Shrub with red, hairy stems and leaves that turn crimson and orange in autumn plus crimson fruit clusters. Produces suckers that can be invasive. H and S4-8m (13-26ft)

13 Liriope muscari In autumn, slender stems of violet flowers emerge from the clumps of blade-like, evergreen leaves, followed by black berries. Copes with dry shade. H30cm (12in) S45cm (18in)

14 Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Perennial with fleshy green leaves and flat pink flower heads that deepen as autumn progresses, before turning brown in winter. H and S60cm (2ft)

15 Colchicum ‘Pink Star’ Autumn-flowering crocus whose pale mauve starry flowers on white stems sparkle in sun or part shade, Sept-Oct. H15cm (6in) 10cm (4in)

16 Pennisetum villosum Loose tufts of fine leaves and masses of fluffy, cream-coloured flowers. Borderline hardy so needs winter protection. H and S60cm (2ft)

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