Autumn Colour

Written by Cheryl Cummings, Garden Design. 

Autumn’s chill is beginning to bite and everywhere around us foliage is losing its summer green in response to cooler temperatures and falling levels of light as our part of the earth gradually tips away from the sun to face the cold blackness of space. But monochrome winter is still a little way off and what a happy coincidence that just as we begin to shiver at the thought of it our gardens cheer us with a display of their warmest colours.

The stars of the season are that well known favourite Acer palmatum or Japanese maple, but hot on its heals is Amelanchier lamarkii, equally colourful although not so popular but with pretty spring blossom and with the ability to cope with a windy site, as a garden designer I find it a really useful little tree. The fiery colours of the deciduous Viburnum and Euonymus species are spectacular, in my garden they share space with Rhus typhina, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ and Cornus mas, together they blaze their way through autumn like a foliage inferno.

Traditionally grown late flowering Japanese anemones, michaelmas daisies, persicarias and sedums carry on flowering and with newer additions like Rudbeckia they make perfect partners for prairie grasses. My favourite is Panicum, its graceful habit and strong autumn leaf colour are enhanced as its seed heads swell and hang like tiny beads of glass on slender stems, embellished by morning dew after a night shift by the orb web spiders the effect is magical.

As the season progresses and the sun lowers in the sky, its slanting rays intensify the heat of the colours we see in our plants as the green chlorophyll is broken down in readiness for leaf fall and anthocyanin, carotene and xanthophyll are revealed in leaves as vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. But not all the colour in my garden comes from its plants.

The little blue, long tailed and great tits are back after their summer holiday elsewhere, they zip around the branches of an old apple tree searching for unseen insects among the remaining rosy red apples, and the goldfinches are a constant companion as they flit to and from the niger seed feeder, their bouncy flight showing off vivid yellow feathers. Our gardens are brilliant through every season, let’s get out there and make the most of this one.