Your Garden in September/October

21 December 2017

Summer has departed and autumn is well on its way.  The gentle, low sunlight perfectly sets off the glowing autumn colours. But does your garden contain enough of these to lift your spirits as we head towards winter?

If you have acidic soil (Cameliias and Rhododendrons are happy in it), then you can grow trees with the brightest autumn leaf colour.  A large tree that is not widely grown in gardens is Liquidambar styraciflua (see above) but it has the most striking autumn leaf colour and if you have room it will provide a dramatic backdrop to your garden.  There are many cultivars, each of which has a slightly different scarlet hue.  If your garden is not big enough for this tree then plant one of the larger Acer palmatum, together with 2 smaller ones to form a group, and then plant another one elsewhere in the garden.  This will give much more impact than just planting one tree.

If you do not have acidic soil then the smaller Acer palmatum e.g ‘Garnet’ will grow in your soil; Mallet Court Nursery in Curry Mallet, Somerset grows many of them on alkaline soil.  If you need height, you could group several near a yellow leaved Betula (birch), for example one of the Betula utilis var. jacquemontii cultivars also renowned for their beautiful trunks, or another tree that is not seen often enough is the Crataegus persimilis 'Prunifolia' splendens which has a beautiful dome shape and stunning red fruit. 

Underneath the medium/large trees, you could plant Hydrangea paniculata ‘Phantum’ with its soft pink flowers that last such a long time, the crimson leaved Euonymus alata ‘Compactus’ or Nandina domestic ‘Firepower’, whose leaves take on a scarlet hue.  But plant them in groups, rather than singly, for impact.  And under these? What about Epimedium x rubric (acidic soil) whose young and dying foliage colours red with the added bonus of crimson flowers in the spring, or Geranium macrorhizzum ‘Bevan’s Variety’ (any soil) whose autumn leaves are tinged with red.

Enjoy the summer sun in your garden while tackling a few chores:


  • Tidy up perennials but leave grasses if you want them to add structure to the winter garden
  • Deadhead Dahlias etc to encourage the display to continue
  • Plant spring flowering bulbs (leave Tulips to Nov/Dec)

    Visit the following Dorset gardens to enjoy the June sunshine:


  • Knoll Gardens: join one of Neil Lucas’ Masterclass on Grasses.
  • Minterne Gardens: for the Acers.
  • Compton Acres Gardens: for the Acers.
  • Kingston Lacy Gardens: free guided estate walks.



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