Autumn Tasks And Autumn Colour

Photo of Continus 'Grace' in East Sussex Garden by Mark Payne Landscape Design

With a second flush of colour and vibrancy breaking through these crisp sunny mornings I have to say in many ways Autumn is my favourite time of year.  But with the weather rapidly turning colder and the days getting shorter there is work to be done! It is time to encourage those last areas of growth and life, whilst preparing for the changing season and putting the garden to bed for winter. So what are the most important things to consider in the Autumn months?

  1. Firstly, in order to have a glorious display next year, it is time to plant in your spring flowering bulbs, such as Daffodils, Crocus, Hyacinths, Alliums and Lilies.

Quick tips to bulb planting:

  1. Plant in groups, try to vary the numbers so that you have a swath of blooms that look as natural as possible, rather than uniform and manufactured.
  2. Make a hole that is wide enough for the bulb and 2-3 times its depth. (The deeper you can get things like Alliums, Tulips and Hyacinths the better! As they will be better supported in holding those spectacular flower heads aloft)
  3. Plant the bulb with the shoots facing up.
  4. Place soil over the top of the bulb, but do not compact it.
  1. Remove annuals that have gone over and put them on your compost. In their place plant in new perennials whilst the soil is still warm and moist, cut back dead growth on the old ones ready for next year.
  1. Now is the perfect time to plant in your autumn garlic and onion sets! So prepare your bed making sure all large clods are broken up and any big stones or rocks removed, get your sets in and all there is left to do is sit back and watch them grow!
  1. If you have been considering introducing trees as an element of your garden then autumn is the perfect time, not only are the conditions more suitable for planting but many varieties are only available at this time of year. Planting fruit trees at this time has the added bonus of a spring blossom.
  1. Finally it is not too late to aerate your lawn before winter sets in. This can be done either with a lawn aerator, or the old fashioned way, with you and a fork. (If you are going to do it manually I suggest swapping legs every ten goes to try avoid repetitive strain)

As the summer comes to an end and winter approaches it is time to start preparing for the colder weather, so what do we need to do to make sure everything is at its best next year?

  1. Prune roses hard back to prevent wind rock. (Do this towards the very end of Autumn start of Winter, as we don’t want to lose any late flowers.)
  1. Give evergreen shrubs and hedges a light prune or final neaten so that they are not left bare and look crisp for Winter.
  1. Other shrubs such as Buddleja davidii can be so they don’t get damaged, and look neat and tidy for Winter.

Thinking about Autumn colour …

If you are looking round your garden thinking you are lacking in those Autumnal colours this year that make the season so spectacular, there are several ways in which you can bring it into your scheme in the future:

  1. Dahlia’s are a great way of having a long lasting flower display right up until the first frosts of winter… Varieties such as ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, ‘Chat Noir’ or ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ are but a few of these with multiple variations in flower shape, colour and size. As more and more people are realising these plants flower power, they are making a fast come back.
  2. Acer griseum, or the paperbark tree can be grown as a large shrub or deciduous tree and as the name would suggest has notable attractively peeling bark which adds interest in the Winter when we begin to see more of the structure beneath the foliage. Before it loses it’s leaves however we get a spectacular show as the normally green leaves change in colour, eventually reaching a glowing red. The Acer has the benefit of being happy in most soil types as long as it is moist and well drained.
  3. Cotinus ‘Grace’ is again a great option for some late Autumn colour. It can be grown as a large shrub or small tree with large, matte, red/purple leaves there is nothing better for creating an impact fast as it is vigorous and is happy in most soil types as long as moist and well-drained. For best colour grow in full sun.
  4. Finally Euonymous europaeus is our show stopper… grown as a deciduous tree or shrub, not only do the dark green oval leaves of this plant turn a deep red/purple in Autumn but it fruits bright pink flowers that open to reveal orange seeds. The affect is breathtaking, and definitely something to be considered if you want something a sight to behold next Autumn in your garden. Comfortable in any soil type if moist and well drained, and happy in sun or part shade.

It really is making these extra efforts throughout the year that will result in you having a thriving, healthy, and spectacular garden all year round. How can we expect to have a stunning display without first setting the stage, so clear the decks, do your prep and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Trinity Spohrer

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