Better and brighter than any other season, autumn offers almost endless opportunities for an explosion of garden colour. Leaves turn a blazing red, crimson or gold; purples are richer and the yellows are more bril-liant. Plants of every form and hue strive to surpass themselves, becoming taller, brighter and ever-more magnificent before succumbing to cool, damp inevitability, and softer winter hues.
The parallel between garden and a firework display is no idle one. It’s all about creating a show and rolling out the entertainment. And if it elicits gasps of admiration, so much the better. Both artforms revel in rockets and cascades, sparkles and stars. Using plants that echo the form of fireworks, and combining hot colours with smouldering undertones, can create a display where life imitates art or, perhaps, art imitates life.
For a would-be horticultural Prometheus, there are a number of key candidates for the autumnal hot border. Acers with their flaming leaves come into their own now; dahlias, and daisies such as rudbeckia and heleni-ums, are still going strong. Miscanthus and other grasses shoot boldly upwards, while Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’ develops wispy, trailing flames.
Lingering kniphofia and salvias are demonstrating their stamina, while those plants that are synonymous with the season have hit their stride. The gently coruscating flowers of hylotelphium ‘Herbstfreude’ (Autumn Joy) and Michaelmas daisies in a livery of rich purple and hot pink have a shimmering complement of bees and butterflies gorging on late nectar.
And, as the foliage starts to thin, berries and stems rise to the occasion in the form of pyracantha and euon-ymus, flaming cornus and willow. Hips and haws are fundamental to a good autumn garden; clusters of haw-thorn berries are now spectacular, while any rose with good, bright hips should be cherished, both for our benefit and that of the birds.
Choosing the right shooting stars of the season will help summer favourites blaze onwards until the frosts. Fabulous, inexorable and going out with a bang.