The greatest show on earth

Create a garden spectacular this autumn with nature’s glorious kaleidoscope of colours.

No matter how carefully you plan your garden colour schemes, autumn is the time your garden creates its own palette, often resulting in surprisingly beautiful combinations. There’s lots of potential, with oranges, golds, reds, purples and pinks suffusing the leaves and stems of a huge variety of plants. Illuminated by the soft autumnal sun, the garden’s changing colours are a miracle of nature.

Trees for autumn colour
Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifalia’ has gorgeous dark green leaves, pretty white flowers in May and glossy red fruits to fol!ow. lts leaves also take on orange and red tints in the autumn. C. x lavalleei has similar attractions, but its berries last well into Christmas.
These are great for small gardens. Aiso try Acer griseum, Amel anchier lamarckii or Sorbus hupehensis, if space is tight.

Sarbus vilmorinii, or mountain ash, is another pretty, small tree, with ferny foliage and white flowers in late spring/early summer. Clusters of white pearl-like fruit, flushed with pink, follow, contrasting well with the striking bronze-red autumn foliage. If you have room for a large, spreading tree, grow Prunus sargentii.
Pink flowers emerge on bare branches in mid-spring, turning bronzy-green before becoming plain green.


Although the Prunus tolerates shade, it prefers the sun and delivers a magnificent autumn show of crimson and orange. Shrubs for show

For a striking autumn display, it’s hard to beat Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’. Its purple leaves do best in full sun, while green-leafed varieties tolerate light shade. Cotinus are easy to grow in any free-draining soil in a sunny position. Established plants will produce beautiful new foliage if cut down to ground level in spring. The purple-leafed variety prefers a sunny spot.

Euonymus are known for their evergreen species, which provide ground cover, hedges and climbers. The deciduous species boast ye1low to deep scarlet autumn colours and decorative fruit. Euonymus alatus is a rounded shrub with a slow growth rate, making it useful in a border. Its leaves turn vivid scarlet in autumn and are grey-green throughout the year. E. alatus ‘Compactus’ has long-lasting autumn colour in outstanding pink and red, with reddish fruit.
Under-plant with the autumn-flowering Crocus medius, which has purple flowers and a scarlet stigma.
Good evergreen ground cover

Parrotia persica is a large, moisture slow-growing shrub. As weil as orange and raspberry autumn colours, its flowers have red anthers and chocolate-brown bracts in winter. Under-plant with the autumn-flowering Cyclamen hederofolium for contrast.

Great for ground cover
Mahonia aquifolium ‘Atropurpurea’ looks great in mass planting. With scented ye1low flowers in spring and evergreen leaves that turn purple-red in autumn and winter, it thrives in shade as weil as sun and tolerates any soil. Epimediums make effective ground cover in dry shade. Epimedium x rubrum is semi-evergreen, with heart-shaped leaves that emerge bronze-red in spring, and pink flowers. Its coral-red shades in autumn make it an essential foliage plant. Use epimediums to add caral-red tanes to a dry, shaded area.

In spite of being evergreen, many bergenias provide rich autumn and winter colour. They are invaluable in a shady garden, providing glossy, large, rounded leaves that contrast weil with ferns, such as Liriope muscari, which enjoys the same dry, shady conditions. Bergenia ‘Sunningdale’ has rose-pink flowers on coral-red sterns in spring and bronze tints in autumn. The Bergenia purpurascens’ leaf turns from glossy green to beetroot red, and B. cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ has bright purple winter leaves. Bergenias also have pretty pink flowers in spring. IBergenjas contrast well with ferns, in dry, shady spots Ceratostigma plumbaginoides and C. willmottianum have a profusion of rich-blue flowers from mid-summer to mid-autumn, with red-tinted leaves in autumn. These deciduous shrubs are low-growing and rounded, so they make good cover for the front of a border.

Feed the birdies

As the weather worsens during November, you might find an influx of birds in your garden on the look out for food. Now’s a good time to hang bird feeders, clean out bird boxes, tables and baths, or put up a new one. One of the greatest pleasures for bird-lovers, is growing shrubs that bring a feast of berries and fruits for feathered friends.
Cotoneaster lacteus bears berries well into winter. English holly (llex aquifolium) is equally popular. For a good crop, grow male and female together – such as the male ‘Silver Queen’ next to female ‘J C van Tol’.
Ideal for a difficult dry or shady spot, the stinking iris (Iris foetidissima) bears bright orange seeds throughout winter.
Commom hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) produces fruits loved by thrushes. finches and blue tits. It becomes quite large.
If you’ve got a wall to cover, grow a Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Birds, especially magpies, will love the fruit that appears during the cold months.

Things to do in November
  • Give wisteria its second prune – the first one is done during surnrner
  • Continue planting tulip and lily bulbs
  • Prune roses and cut out weak and spindly sterns
  • Wrap terracotta pots in bubble wrap, ready for frosty weather
  • Clear paths of leaves as they become slippery when wet
What’s in bloom
  • Lonicera fragrantissima is a shrubby honeysuckle, perfect for hedging. It bears scented cream flowers in winter.
  • Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ produces lovely, frothy pinky-white flowers from autumn through to spring.
  • Clematis ‘Golden Tiara’ is one of the last clematis to flower. It displays yellow flowers weil into autumn, followed by seedheads.
Prima solution

Q: Stray cats keep on doing their business in the borders of my gardens. Can you suggest anything that I could use to keep them away?
A: Dry out used tea bags, then add a few drops of eucalyptus oil (try Olbas Oil if you have any in your medicine cabinet). Cats hate the smell and should keep clear.

Kim’s choice

These lovely tealight lanterns caught my eye -just perfect tor brightening autumn gardens at twilight. Made from flame-retardant tabric, in either meadow flower or damask green designs, the shades have an inner glass holder. They cost 19.50 tor three, trom The Garden Shop (0870 7770099).

Garden to visit

Ickworth, The Rotunda, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
(01284 735270). Open daily, 10am-5pm, from late March until November; 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday, from November to late March. Choose from the Italianate Gardens and Grounds, The Silver Garden and Edwardian borders. The house is closed in November.