Autumn arrives in a blaze of glory. When temperatures fall and days draw in, deciduous trees and shrubs prepare for their winter dormancy and their leaves turn a multitude of vibrant colours in reds, purples and golds.
Noteable for their spectacular displays are the acers, including liquidamber and amelanchier, and also cotinus (smoke bush) and hamamelis (witch hazel). Heuchera foliage, below, also provides vibrant seasonal colour.
Autumn flowers peep out from the fallen leaves – kaffir lilies, autumn crocus and cyclamen hederafolium are particularly striking at this time of year.
If your garden is looking a little dull right now, it is worth looking around to see what colours and interest you could include in your garden. There is far more to the winter garden than just evergreens.
September and October are a great months to plant bulbs. Ideally, plant as soon as you have purchased, as they form good root growth in early autumn. Check for good strong bulbs and ensure the ground is well-prepared, with plenty of well-rotted organic matter incorporated into your soil. Bulbs only have a short period in leaf after flowering, so fertile soil is essential.
Now is the time for Autumn lawn maintenance, including scarifying, aerating and re-sowing of bare patches. It is also great time for autumn feeding with a high phosphate feed to encourage root growth and strengthen up for winter. Finished herbaceous plants can be cut back, generally to the crown, while mature plants can be split and divided now.
Clear fallen leaves and store in hessian sacks to break them down, as once rotted they make fabulous mulch. Diseased foliage should be cleared and destroyed. Do not add to your compost heap, as the spores will re-infect your plants next year.
Summer baskets and tubs are past their best by now, but all is not lost. There are some wonderful plants available for the autumn and winter and with a little TLC will last right through to next spring. Pansies and violas give a long and reliable show, and are now available in a great range of colours. Mix with less common container plants such as grasses, heathers, ajugas, cyclamen and small berried shrubs for striking effect. To complete your all-year round display, consider having two sets of baskets and tubs so that you can plant up your autumn/winter plants while your summer baskets still have colour.
Enjoy autumn in all its glory and take time to reflect on our long-awaited wonderful summer.