New ways with autumn colour
Fire and ice, parchment and pastels, precious metals – the autumn garden is rich in colour combinations just waiting to be unleashed, says Val Bourne
The November garden is fired by vibrant contrasts – from the muted hues of plants retreating underground or losing their leaves to prepare for winter sleep, to the saturated colours of fiery autumn foliage, fruit, stems and late flowers that linger into November. Brown, beige and khaki dominate now, but low autumn sunlight picks up every detail and enhances the smouldering accent hues to make them glow. Aromatic silver plants provide a steely backdrop for these colourful treasures, and their foliage gives your seven-spot ladybirds and spiders a place to shelter, too. Leave these ‘ever-grey’ plants intact and cut them back in April when spring breaks through. It’s a good time to make full use of colourful grasses in reds, browns, parchments and frosted greens. Use them to ring an ornamental acer or small tree, or weave them through an autumn border where they’ll glow like a series of fibre-optic lamps. Fine-fronded grasses move and sway when it’s wet and windy, but also freeze-frame in frost to provide elegant ice sculptures. Use taller grasses as punctuation marks among billowing asters and make good use of all those earthy oranges, bronzes and golds. They’ll lift your spirits – even on a dreary November day.
Lilac-flowered Aster amellus ‘Silbersee’ and Verbena bonariensis flatter the glowing hues of upright grass Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’, with a young red oak tree Quercus rubra
Silvery miscanthus ‘Silberfeder’ plumes contrast with fiery imperata ‘Rubra’ and yellow