AU­TUMN JEWELS

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - Words by stephanie don­ald­son pho­to­graphs by dianna jazwin­ski

Late-flow­er­ing plants com­bine with bright berries and turn­ing leaves to cre­ate a daz­zling show up to the first frosts

Late-flow­er­ing plants com­bine with bright berries and turn­ing leaves to cre­ate a daz­zling show that will fill your gar­den with colour right up to the first frosts

As the gar­den be­gins its jour­ney from the abun­dance of sum­mer to the quiet of win­ter, it departs in colour­ful style. Leaves that have pre­vi­ously pro­vided a green back­drop take on an eye-catch­ing bril­liance, fruit and berries ripen and deepen in hue, and late-bloom­ing flow­ers brighten the bor­ders, cre­at­ing vi­brant flushes among their fad­ing com­pan­ions.

In the past, old-fash­ioned gar­den­ing prac­tices would have had us cut­ting back, tidy­ing and pulling out by now, but we have learnt to rel­ish this time of year and se­lect our plants to in­clude as many late per­form­ers as pos­si­ble. A bit of volup­tuous disor­der is so much more in­ter­est­ing than an overly tidy bor­der.

Few of us have the space to de­vote large ar­eas of the gar­den solely to a sin­gle sea­sonal dis­play, so the key to adding au­tumn in­ter­est is to mix things up. Con­sider the dif­fer­ent lay­ers of plant­ing – trees, shrubs, climbers, herba­ceous peren­ni­als, half hardies and an­nu­als – and in­cor­po­rate some be­lated bloomers in each layer. Ide­ally, some of th­ese plants will have multi-sea­son ap­peal. Among the trees, Ja­panese ac­ers are mag­nif­i­cent in the au­tumn, but their spring fo­liage is equally strik­ing. They make won­der­ful spec­i­men plants for a shel­tered cor­ner, are great in con­tain­ers and, should you have the space and time, will even­tu­ally make a fine grove. The crab ap­ple (Malus) is an­other tree that per­forms well through the sea­sons, with bliz­zards of blos­som in the spring fol­lowed by plen­ti­ful fruit that ripens through the sum­mer to rich au­tum­nal shades. Both the crab ap­ple and rowan (Sor­bus au­cu­paria) are in­valu­able food sources for wildlife – an im­por­tant fac­tor when plant­ing for this time of year. Even trees grown pri­mar­ily for early dis­play can put on a bonus show in the au­tumn – mag­no­lia seed­pods are beau­ti­fully sculp­tural and burst open to re­veal dan­gling clus­ters of bril­liant scar­let seeds.

Shrubs and climbers fill the layer be­tween trees and bor­der: here, too, some have been flow­er­ing for months, while oth­ers have saved their star turn for now. Vibur­nums, in their many va­ri­eties, flower from late win­ter on­wards, but are equally valu­able for the rich colours of their au­tumn fo­liage.

Hy­drangeas grad­u­ally trans­form from the white, pink and blue shades of sum­mer to deeper hues rang­ing from green and ma­genta to pur­ple. The deep plum tones of Cot­i­nus cog­gy­gria that have given depth to the bor­ders dur­ing the sum­mer now be­come il­lu­mi­nated by the low-an­gled sun as the leaves grad­u­ally take on shades of scar­let. As does Nan­d­ina do­mes­tica, the heav­enly

OP­PO­SITE The dis­tinc­tive fo­liage of Acer pal­ma­tum ‘Trompen­burg’ THIS PAGE, CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT Tax­odium dis­tichum in au­tumn; gleam­ing fruit of Malus hu­pe­hen­sis; red Mag­no­lia x loeb­neri ‘Snow­drift’ seed­pods; pink-tinged berries of Sor­bus hu­pe­hen­sis

Hy­drangeas grad­u­ally trans­form from the pale shades of sum­mer into deeper hues

bam­boo, which is not ac­tu­ally a bam­boo, but a use­ful com­pact ev­er­green shrub that pos­i­tively glows with bright colour. The flow­er­ing dog­woods, Cor­nus kousa, fol­low their tree-smoth­er­ing show of flow­er­ing bracts in late spring with au­tumn leaves in a med­ley of colours, ac­com­pa­nied by red straw­berry-like (ed­i­ble but un­palat­able) fruits.

Join­ing th­ese mem­bers of the cast are other shrubs that have been wait­ing un­til au­tumn to re­veal their true glory. The fo­liage of cal­li­carpa, the ap­pro­pri­ately named beau­ty­berry, grad­u­ally turns from green to pink and then falls to un­cover clus­ters of small pinky-pur­ple berries. And the spindle­berry Euony­mus at­rop­ur­purea trans­forms from a non­de­script and rather strag­gly bush into a show­stop­per, its ruby-red leaves in­ter­spersed by shock­ing-pink seed cap­sules from which bright orange berries emerge. A na­tive plant, this is a must for in­clu­sion in a wildlife hedge.

Climbers Vi­tis coigne­tiae, the crim­son glory vine, and Partheno­cis­sus quin­que­fo­lia, Vir­ginia creeper, are in­valu­able for cov­er­ing walls from spring on­wards, but it is now that they re­ally come into their own as their leaves adopt their au­tumn fin­ery. Both are vig­or­ous and need to be kept un­der con­trol or they will ram­page through nearby trees and shrubs, but their vi­brant colours are well worth a bit of ju­di­cious prun­ing.

In the bor­ders, late- and long-flow­er­ing plants add an­other layer of colour. The pal­ette is of­ten richer and more in­tense than in high sum­mer, with an ar­ray of rich ru­bies, reds, pur­ples and deep pinks, all en­livened by yel­lows, or­anges and golds. Herba­ceous peren­ni­als cover the full colour spec­trum, from the dark, moody fo­liage of Ac­taea sim­plex At­rop­ur­purea through the

tow­er­ing eu­pa­to­ri­ums with their flat-topped heads of strong pink flow­ers to the yel­low, bronze and gold of he­le­ni­ums. Pen­ste­mons bloom long and late and their stems of fox­glove-type bells look par­tic­u­larly good weav­ing through grasses. Then there’s Physalis alkekengi, the Chi­nese lan­tern bush, which is de­cid­edly or­di­nary for most of the year but a glo­ri­ously showy per­former in au­tumn. How­ever, planted in a bor­der it can be as in­va­sive as mint, so it is best con­fined to a con­tainer – tucked away and then brought into the fore­ground for its mo­ment of glory.

In­ter­spersed among the peren­ni­als there are an­nu­als and half-hardy peren­ni­als that can be re­lied upon for some in­tense splashes of colour, right up to the first frosts. Dahlias will take cen­tre stage in the late gar­den as they reach their peak. Al­though it’s no longer con­sid­ered es­sen­tial to dig them up at the end of the sea­son for stor­age in a frost-free place, this de­pends on the slug sit­u­a­tion in your gar­den – it’s still worth the ef­fort if the al­ter­na­tive is that emerg­ing shoots get eaten be­fore they can be­come es­tab­lished.

Salvias come in a won­der­ful range of vi­brant colours and make ideal com­pan­ions for grasses, but bear in mind that in a shel­tered sunny spot, dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties can range in height from half a me­tre to well over two me­tres. In all but the warm­est gar­dens it is sen­si­ble to take cut­tings of salvias for next year – the good news is that they root in­cred­i­bly eas­ily. And last, but far from least, are an­nu­als such as zin­nias and cos­mos, which will con­tinue to be­jewel your bor­ders right up to the frost that fi­nally brings down the cur­tain on your gar­den for the year.

Dahlias are star per­form­ers and take cen­tre stage in the late gar­den

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