This autumn border could do with a revamp, says Ian Hodgson. Here’s how to add some seasonal pizzazz
QHow can I introduce more colour into my border in autumn?
THIS SHAPELY BORDER has a lot going for it: bushy evergreen Artemisia vulgaris ‘Variegata’ (our native mugwort) is flanked by a small stripy yucca and the vibrant red berries of Cotoneaster horizontalis. Yet these three ingredients seem a little disconnected – largely because the creamy yellow variegation of the artemisia has faded by autumn, and yellow potentilla, primula and peony flowers are absent. Instead the handsome bergenia picks up the red tones of the cotoneaster berries, so I’d focus on boosting the season’s reds and golds. The variegated yucca seems to be struggling in this part-shady spot, so you could replace it with phormium ‘Yellow Wave’ – a more architectural plant (H and S1.5m/5ft), it better tolerates shade. I know it’s borderline sacrilegious, but I also think the tree peony could be moved elsewhere. Its golden May flowers are lovely but too brief; think how much bolder a red-stemmed cornus would look here. After its shimmering gold leaves have fallen in late autumn, those fiery red stems would pick up on the cotoneaster berries to the right. I’d also recommend replacing the artemisia with a more vivacious and seasonally interesting shrub. Oak-leaved Hydrangea quercifolia would work, offering white flowers from mid to late summer followed by dramatic red leaves and parchmentbrown seedheads for winter interest. In the foreground, the tangle of groundcover plants – viola, primula and potentilla – all look a bit nondescript in autumn. How about a mix of red and gold heucheras, hakonechloa ‘Nicolas’ and evergreen ferns for an attractive range of foliage colours and shapes? For good measure, pop in a purple hylotelephium such as ‘José Aubergine’. I’d leave the cotoneaster and bergenia in situ – they’re both good-value plants ideal for a small garden, bringing reliable autumn and winter interest year after year without looking dreary.