We’re nearing the end of the growing season with a glorious burst of colour before most gardens will look tired and ready for hibernation.
The colours are currently magnificent with hues of golds, reds and brown leaves combined with the pinks, reds and white berries that blend into a kaleidoscope of visual autumnal splendour. I was fortunate enough to visit Inverewe Gardens on the north-west coast where they were looking splendid.My favourite plants in flower just now are the Verbena bonariensis (pictured) where butterflies enjoyed the flowers, particularly the Small tortoiseshell, the dazzling Peacock butterfly and countless Red Admirals; and the beautiful dahlias. There are many varieties and types of Dahlia and I am torn between the starburst and pom-poms types – as shown in pictures.
My favourite leaf colour just now is from the shrub Viburnum plicatum Mariesii Â with its burgundy shades and Gillenia trifoliata, a delicate herbaceous perennial and Euonymus alatus also have wonderful red leaves. The berries of the Sorbus vilmorinii, cotoneaster and gaultheria offer more colour.Â Tall golden grasses sway in the gentlest of breezes add colour, movement and architectural structure to the garden. There are many fantastic deciduous grasses with autumnal colour particularly Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ and Miscanthus ‘Ferner Osten’.
Now is the time to get on with the .pre-winter jobs, firstly – lawn aeration and scarification. A gentle raking to remove the dead material and moss coupled with spiking the lawn and filling the holes with good compost or coarse sand will help alleviate compaction.
Secondly, soil preparation – remove summer bedding or spent crops and dig over adding a feed or manure and allow the frost to finish the job. Prepare smaller areas or pots for wallflowers and winter pansies for early colour.
I prefer to leave the bulk of my pruning until Spring believing that the remains protect the crowns from severe weather conditions but I never leave tall perennials or budleja for example high as the wind would rock the root base. Also some plants create a skeletal structure which can be interesting. Other plants such as Astilbe have seed heads that create structure and supply food to smaller animals. Please bear in mind the wildlife and leave them piles of leaves and sticks as cover in winter.
If you have the time and interest, this is a good time to take hardwood cuttings. These cuttings will provide you with free plants next year – try lavender, cornus, weigelia, roses …
Finally, continually check to avoid possible problems caused by winter damage. Stake, cover and tie down anything requiring protection – a visual check will save time and money in the long run, not only with plants but fences and greenhouses too. Water systems may need draining and gutters cleared to avoid flooding or burst pipes and taps.
This post originally appeared in October 2016.