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!
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!