Early Autumn Colour
From now on you can choose to read my weekly writings in either English or in German, I hope you will enjoy this .
Von nun an können Sie meine wöchentlichen Beiträge entweder auf Englisch oder auf Deutsch lesen. Ich hoffe, es wird Ihnen gefallen (zur deutschen Version).
From day to day it becomes more appealing to sit at home with a nice cup of tea (or coffee, or even something a little stronger) and read, dream and plan further garden developments for years to come. Blustery winds and short showers really bring it home to you that autumn has well and truly arrived as the first colourful leaves flatter to the ground. The low evening sunlight catches the tops of shrubs and lights up trees with fiery autumn colour. From day to day this firework display gets better as more plants change colour, though at the moment the contrast with the still partly green backdrop of some trees like the oaks, is stunning. Some plants are reliably good for autumn, some are good depending on the season and their position, some just never do anything and turn from green to brown to nothing. The much-loved Syringa is such a candidate. They are wonderful the three weeks in flower, dull-green in autumn, and un-exciting in winter.
Climbers for reliable early autumn colour
Some plants are really reliable for a good autumn display, kickstarting the display is the vine, Parthenocissus. All seem to be equally good, turning all shades form pales, translucent yellow, to fiery deep red. What I love about this self-clinging climber which is equally suited for a north-facing wall, is that the leaf disconnects at the top of the leaf-stalk, leaving approximately 10cm long bright red leafstalks sticking out like a hedgehog. Soon these too will fall off, but in the meantime, they provide an unusual facade decoration.
Equally good are the true vines, or Vitis species. My all-time favourite is the large-leaved, vigourous climber Vitis coignettiae. This too is in the process of turning all shades between palest yellow, orange and deep wine red.
Early fiery shrubs that provide good colours for autumn and winter
Right now, there are several plants whose autumn colour matches that of their stems. Various Cornus and Acer varieties, well-known for their stunning winter stem colour, are at the point where foliage and stems match perfectly. Acer palmatum ‘Bi-Hoo’ is apricot to yellow in leaf and stem, as is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’ is just turning orange-red whereas Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ has reached a perfect-pitch dark red. Although its stems are not red like its foliage, Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ has interesting winged branches that are attractive in winter. Right now, this shrub it is at its most beautiful, providing a vibrant red splash of vivid colour that can be seen for far and wide.
Spread the colour across the garden
The touches of autumn colour are everywhere you look. In the carpark the Amelanchiers are glowing orange, as is the one in the Japanese Garden. Here the Prunus yedoensis just starts to turn colour, whilst the Cercidiphyllum japonicum is now a warm butter yellow and spreads its delicious caramel scent.
Colour in the herbaceous border
In the herbaceous border the Euphorbia palustris ‘Wahlenburg Glorie’ has turned translucent red, whilst the dull green, tired foliage of peonies starts to turn orange-red and rusty brown. The delightful airy Gillenia trifoliata adds a splash of orange, Nepeta kubanika develops soft colours. Yellow streaks are added in the middle of the border by the elegant Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’ and near the edge the Amsonias are a soft lustrous yellow
Grasses like Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ slowly fade and dry, while Molinia arundincaea ‘Windspiel’ starts to acquire its golden orange glow.
Autumn is the best time to plant
I may be repeating myself, but I keep being asked when the best time is to plant. Do it now whilst the soil is moist and warm and the plants are still active. Not only will they establish quicker and grow faster, you will be able to enjoy them already this winter, however small they still are! Give them a generous hole, add compost and mycorrhiza, trim the roots a little and water well. Do watch out not to plant them any deeper than they were!!!