Elemental bronze, copper and gold have an earthiness that glows richly in sunshine
Bronze, copper and gold abound at this time of year and give the garden a soft, golden glow. Molinia caerulea arundinacea ‘Karl Foerster’, a tall purple moor grass, bears golden-brown flower spikes. The foliage and stems turn to warm gold once September arrives, so it’s the perfect foil for tall, soft-blue Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’. They make a great trio with the late, red-hot species poker, Kniphofia rooperi: the golden grass picks up the almost-triangular, soft-orange poker heads and the blue aconitum adds contrast. The tall silhouette of the common teasel pops up with this poker at Great Dixter and the dark thistly eggs on long legs offer a strong winter silhouette. Many trees colour up to copper and one of the best is prunus ‘Kursar’, an airy small tree that produces downward facing buds in winter, followed by pink blossom. Further soft, coppery touches could include the classic waist-high dahlia ‘David Howard’, or shorter ‘Totally Tangerine’ with smaller, doublecentred flowers. Fleece these if frost is forecast and they’ll go on until early November in mild years. Don’t dismiss hardy, orange-toned chrysanthemums. ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ produces fully petalled dusky, orange-red f lowers with bronze overtones. ‘Paul Boissier’ is a green-eyed rich russetorange. Potted chrysanthemums from the garden centre can be treated as bedding. If you spot Chinese lanterns as a cut flower, stick the stems in a window box or container to create an effective display. Physalis alkekengi franchetii is often invasive in a border, although you could leave it to its own devices if you have a sunny strip where nothing else grows. Warm cocoa and bronze also cast a special magic and some grasses have a metallic glint. Carex testacea, New Zealand sedge, produces a cascade of fine brown leaves that swirl round. Find it a sunny position or grow it in a pot. Or try browner Carex comans ‘Bronze’ – the plant equivalent of a Pekinese dog. It also tolerates damp conditions. Finally don’t be too keen to cut everything down. Amsonias, summer-flowering perennials with tiny slate-blue stars, fade beautifully and, as the temperatures fall, the foliage turns to liquid gold. They love some moisture and grow well with deciduous ferns. The aptly-named regal fern (Osmunda regalis) produces feathery fronds that age to gold before dying back. In dry soils plant some of those stunning silvers instead for a full set of these majestic metals.
Silvery perovskia weaves among golden calamagrostis flowers and the bronze seedheads of phlomis and veronicastrum
Indigo Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’ shine beneath Acer palmatum ‘Aureum’
Copper beech hedging with pleached hornbeam