Garden Design in Autumn

Now is a perfect time to start planting bulbs for the Spring. Certain types of bulb are best avoided for flower borders as they tend to multiply and become unruly and leave bare patches of dead, brown leaves through the summer after display- these include Daffs, snowdrops, crocus and bluebells. So, these are best planted in areas of woodland or grass. Good bulbs for the borders are tulips and alliums of which there are many varieties – a nice idea with tulips is to plant ones that flower at different times so that you get a continuous display of colour through Spring – this particularly applies to early tulips when there is not a lot of colour about. An excellent early tulip is called ‘exotic emperor’ – Large white flowers.  {P.s. if you find you’re not getting success with snowdrops year after year, then try buying them ‘in the green’ [i.e. when they’re growing leaves] in the new year and plant them then}.

A fantastic garden to visit for a day out in late Jan/ early Feb is Brandy Mount Gardens in Alresford, Hants SO24 9EG. It has the national collection of snowdrops and Daphne [flowering slightly later].

Mulching in Spring

As all the perennial plants are starting to take off in the garden, now is still a very good time to mulch the borders – one of the most worthwhile tasks. A thick layer of mulch, if applied now (preferably in February/March), such as well-rotted manure, compost or leaf mould, will save months of laborious weeding through the summer. It will also help to retain moisture in the ground through the dry months (very important especially for roses), keeping roots cool and it will enrich the soil. If you can, get mulching! 🙂

Fragrant Winter plants for a shady corner

If you have a small space in semi-shade, maybe near a gate or door then the following combination of plants works very well, particularly through the winter months: Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (shrub), underplanted with Bergenias and Viola Odorata. All these give wonderful fragrance in Winter/early Spring. Further shrubs could be added behind to continue the planting and length of season, e.g. Viburnum judii (wonderful fragrance into early spring and not too large growing), Philadelphus ‘Manteau d’hermione’ (a small growing philadelphus, flowering in summer, won’t like a lot of shade).

Winter Interest

With Winter now setting in, the structural and evergreen plants really start to come into their own and provide interest through the bleak and barren months. Two shrubs, Viburnum Tinus and the lower growing Viburnum Davidii, are invaluable at this time, suiting most situations and soils and also flowering at this time. Also, Holly!

Hellerebores are excellent evergreen plants but are slightly more fussy. Most normally like a bit of shade and some richness in the soil. Cut away any brownish/black leaves at this stage to keep them looking nice and green for the winter.

Some herbaceous plants such as many grasses, Sedums and Asters (particularly Aster Laterifolius) keep lovely structures throughout the winter so could be left alone rather than chopped back. Many plants leave brown seed heads at this time which can be left as food for birds.

Variegated plants are also very good now, giving a brightness to the scene. Excellent shrubs are Euonymus, Rhamnus and again, Holly!

Late Summer Colour

As a professional gardener in Winchester, I am continually thinking about ideas for garden design! At this time of year, it is wonderful to have combinations of plants that still provide interest and colour after the dazzling shows of June and July are over – and there are plenty of plants that serve this purpose, most of which are happy in just about any situation. A real bonus with these plants is that they look good all the way through the season while they build up to their flowering period whereas the earlier plants have now turned brown and can often look quite ugly at this stage!

An example of a lovely combination is Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ mixed among Marjoram (cultivars) and Aster frikartii Monch. The blend of creamy white, blue and purple reds is truly stunning. You could go further and add Sedums, Echinacea and grasses for even more colour and variation.

A gardening tip for this Hydrangea: for really large, pompom-like heads, cut the plant down to several inches from the ground in Spring. Otherwise, for normal-sized flower heads, just take off the top quarter in the Autumn or Spring.

Cutting back plants: Many plants will give a second flowering well into Autumn if cut back to the crown in July, such as Catmint and Geraniums. (Though not all geraniums flower twice).

Finally, not to forget roses! Many give a fabulous second flush in late Summer if not all through the season – keep deadheading!