How to … create great Autumn borders

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..”

What evocative words John Keats wrote in his ode “To Autumn”. Sometimes regarded as a meditation on death, Autumn is seen as the end of the gardening year, as annuals die back, leaves fall and perennials withdraw underground. Flocks of birds gather on telephone cables for the arduous journey southwards. The days get shorter and summer holidays become a distant memory.

Autumn

“..Quick leaves off the sycamore..” Seamus Heaney

For me, however, Autumn has always been my favourite season and I look forward to it with great anticipation.

As a garden designer now based in Dublin, I look forward to seeing more of the beautiful countryside in the months ahead.

It’s a time of reflection – what worked well during the growing season, what needs to be replaced?

garden plans 003

And a time of anticipation as the bulb catalogues descend through the letterbox and the planning for next year begins.

I like the stillness, after the shouty, excited days of summer.

Autumn

I like the early morning mists and the soft sunsets.

I like the bounty that Nature presents us with.

Autumn

And I like the reds, russets and ambers – the tawny colours of Autumn.

Autumn

So here are some ideas for late flowering plants to incorporate into your garden to keep the show going.

Plants for the Autumn garden :

Autumn borders

Late summer in the herbaceous border – rudbeckia, sedum, canna, monarda, crocosmia

  •  Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ ; plant it in well-drained soil in full sun. Easy to propagate by division in spring.
Gardens August 2013 024

Sedum spectabile

  •  Phlomis russeliana, with its whorls of hooded pale yellow flowers throughout summer and autumn.
DSC01860

Phlomis russelliana

It continues to hold its shape well deep into winter when rimed with frost.

DSC_0140

  • Prairie style planting comes into its own, swaying grasses caught in a low autumn sun creates a mellow scene.
  • Miscanthus sinensis, Calamagrostis, Stipa gigantea, Pennisetum … lots to choose from and generally not fussy about soil.

Belgium 2012 986

  • Rudbeckia fulgida , cheerful colour and easy to grow in full sun.
Gardens August 2013 022

Rudbeckia fulgida

  • Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’, wonderful planted in drifts with grasses
Belgium 2012 993

Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’

  • Echinacea purpuria ‘White Swan’ , known as the cone-flower, loved by bees.
Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan'

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’

  • Coreopsis, bright long-lasting perennial
Coreopsis

Coreopsis

  • Crocosmia (montbretia), useful and reliable South African native
Crocosmia

Crocosmia

Crocosmia (montbretia), a garden escapee seen all along the roadside in the west of Ireland, fits in well with grasses; watch out, it can be invasive.

Belgium 2012 764

Crocosmia seen in Connemara

  • Helianthus

559

  • Sambucus nigra, dark foliage looks good mixed with autumn colours
mid August gardens 2013 002

Sambucus nigra

  • Heuchera ‘Marmalade’, another fine foliage plant
mid August gardens 2013 006

Heuchera ‘Marmalade’

Shrubs, trees and climbers

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) or Boston ivy(Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is dramatic and beautiful.

DSC00974

There are many wonderful shrubs and trees with berries or autumnal hues –  Amalanchier, Acer palmatum, Cotinus ‘Flame’, Rhus typhina, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’.

Acer palmatum 'Fire Glow'

Acer palmatum ‘Fire Glow’

Acer palmatum 'Garnet'

Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’

And I have hardly mentioned dahlias – a late summer border without them or Japanese anemones or asters? Impossible.

DSC02061

Dahlia 'Ellen Houston'

Dahlia ‘Ellen Houston’

There is such a range of dahlias that they deserve a post all of their own, coming soon! But you can check dahlia varieties out here:

http://www.national-dahlia-collection.co.uk/en/

So now that Autumn is almost upon us , think ahead to the plants you can incorporate next year to keep the show going.

Visit open gardens, botanic gardens, stately homes armed with a notebook and jot down what looks good.

This is also the time to start selecting the bulbs you will be planting in autumn  for a wonderful show next spring …so that you can spend the winter days in anticipation of the season to come.

Step out and enjoy the autumn sunshine , in your garden or in the countryside … the smell of wood smoke, brisk walks and hearty suppers to return to. There really is an awful lot to love about autumn.

Belgium 2012 1385

4 thoughts on “How to … create great Autumn borders

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s