Choosing plants for autumn colour

by Pippa Greenwood

I'm actually quite relieved now that autumn is here [...] a great time for garden visits and choosing new trees and shrubs.

Amelanchier autumn leavesIt hasn’t been a vintage year in my garden. The growing season started off well with the warm spring – good for garlic and onions - but the weather deteriorated soon after that. So, I’m actually quite relieved now that autumn is here. I can forget the disappointing summer crop and anticipate the pleasures of autumn – a great time for garden visits and choosing new trees and shrubs.

Some of the leaves are showing the first signs of autumn colour, with golden yellow developing in tree canopies. I’m looking forward to seeing more strident colours, too – the roaring reds of the liquidambars and screaming orange amelanchiers. I can’t wait to find the guelder rose thickly covered with berries and the blackthorn bearing sloes, which positively beg to be picked and drowned in gin.

September is an inspiring time to visit your local public gardens, as plants start putting on their autumn show. See what tickles your fancy then head off to your favourite nursery or garden centre. If you find and buy your plants when they’re showing their autumn colour, you’ll have the best idea of their potential.

Autumn is the ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs. Warm soil and moisture promote good root-development, helping plants to settle in before harsh winter weather. A liquidambar in a large garden or an amelanchier in a smaller space will provide a fiery focal point in your autumn garden for years to come.

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Gardeners' World Web User 21/09/2011 at 13:05

I've been delightedly surprised by the poppy red colour on the leaves of my red hammamelis which I did not expect as I bought it for the scent from the flowers early in the spring. An amelanchier is on my wish as it looks great in blossom and the berries are edible as well. Some plants just go on giving. The pink leaves of Davidii involucra are lovely in the autumn and you have the handkerchiefs in May. My birds brought a spindle tree for free to my garden and it is covered with its lovely pink seedheads ready to burst open to show the orange berries, and its leaves are colouring up. But, for variation in colour try growing acers from seed off a mature tree. I have five still in pots and all showing different colours of autumn leaves from salmon pink to a dark burgundy. At our local group of the Alpine Garden Society we are having one of the four lectures at our annual conference on "The Glory of Autumn" by the curator of the Oxford University Botanic Garden, Timothy Walker. I an all agog to see his slides and I'm sure my wish list will grow considerably. So sorry to hear you had a disappointing season in your garden, Pippa.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/09/2011 at 13:20

I am hoping to buy a new plum tree for a sheltered paved garden area but cannot find any advice on the web about which would be the best to buy, I would like to train it up a south facing wall. Any ideas?

Gardeners' World Web User 23/09/2011 at 09:55

Euonymus alatus is showing lovely pink colour this year and with its strange winged branches is a very special shrub to have in your garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/09/2011 at 13:44

Lovely autumn colour here...

Gardeners' World Web User 23/09/2011 at 16:09

Our allotment harvest wasn't brilliant this year, either... adequate but nothing to write home about. Talking of public gardens, is it considered a very bad thing to do, to pick seed heads off plants?

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