My favourite choice of season used to somewhat predictable… as I’d wistfully recount sunny days, lazing on the beach, enjoying the warm temperatures. But, actually, autumn has slowly crept into my affections, and my skin rather enjoys the crisp, cool ambient temperatures, offset by warm sunbeams. There’s something about that really fresh air that clears the mind and invigorates you.

Autumn, of course, is part of a closing show. But, boy, it doesn’t go quietly! Rustic colours abound, berries pop, and structures change- with most of them improving.

The ‘most ‘autumn thing’ tends to be autumn leaves, and a quick scroll of Instagram confirms they are more popular than ever, especially being formed into some fantastic collages (in the style of nature sculptor Andy Goldsworthy). Autumn colours shine through leaves as chlorophyll production slows up, thus allowing the yellows and oranges of the carotenoides to become visible!

Every so often, we experience a vintage year, often known as an ‘indian summer’. Those warmer days increase the sugar production and development of anthocyanins in the plants, and it’s those pigments which glow crimson, red and purple!

However, it isn’t all about autumn leaves, let’s look at some other ways you can amplify that autumn feeling in your own garden:

Autumn-flowering bedding plants
Too many of us like the squeeze out the last few blooms from our bedding displays, but I’d advise you to be a little more cut-throat with your culling. By replacing summer bedding with plants such as Pansies and Violas, you can enjoy colour rather than bare soil, which just adds to the autumn parade!

Lovely little Violas!

Decorative seed-heads

Don’t be too hasty to cut down flowering grasses and herbaceous plants, their seed head displays can travel through shades of red, brown, orange and more. The changing shapes of the heads will also add autumn.

The ageing seed heads of a Wild Parsley

Later season flowering plants

Safeguard your colour display with some old favourites such as Japanese Anemones and Michaelmas Daisies. They may seem old-fashioned, but their look is now regarded as classic, and their flower power is remarkable for such a late shower.

The late summer sun shining through Anemones


Berries can appear on some of the most unexpected plants, so think about these when you plant up your borders. Even the somewhat unassuming autumn performance of the Lily of the Valley can often give a red berry display, nestled amongst the typically-coloured autumn foliage.

The glistening berries of a Lily of the Valley!

Surprise performances

Galanthophiles will know it well, but many aren’t aware of the autumn-flowering snowdrop species, Galanthus reginae-olgae. Confuse your garden visitors with some of these snowy droplets amongst your crispy fallen leaves! Read more about them here.

The somewhat surprising autumn snowdrop!

But, of course… the best autumn foliage!

It’s a hard call to name the best autumn foliage, but some of my particular favourites are Hosta (I love the way the leaves appear to ‘melt’), Acer for their flaming displays, and Forest Pansy (Cercis canadensis), where the foliage inexplicably changes from purple to orange, it’s such fun to watch!

The turning colours of an Acer

  • How funny! It seems that many of us like or at least appreciate autumn. Those who do not enjoy gardening think that we must dislike autumn. I am a Californian, so autumn is rather boring here, but I learned about it from people from other places with cooler autumns. Also, I grew up with kids from Vietnam who were really impressed with the bright yellow of the simple gingkos in the neighborhood, and were really dazzled by the sweetgums! It gave me a different appreciation for something that I might have otherwise taken for granted.

    November 3, 2017

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