Date: 1 October 2008
Originally published in: Garden Confidential (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Fiery orange, pink and red are the colours I associate with my garden in autumn – with dashes of vibrant purple.
Fiery oranges are to be found in the Pyracantha berries that crowd the thorny evergreen, the annual Nasturtium and Marigold that sometimes grow where you tell them (but more often, and more interestingly don’t!), and of course my favourite autumn vegetale the Pumpkin.
Pink can be found in the easy to grow annual Cosmos, as well as the late flowering rose R. The Fairy which I planted over ten years ago in a tiny planting hole, and still flowers profusely right into November. Sedums of course come into their own every autumn with rich, brick-pink umbel shaped flowers which butterflies adore, and pinks suffuse the autumn leaves of Cotinus Grace which glows translucent in the low, afternoon sunlight.
Reds shimmer in Euonymus europaeus (Spindle tree) foliage, hawthorn and R. glauca berries, as well as in the sterns of Swiss Chard Bright Lights, one of the easiest vegetables to grow and one of the most ornamental.
Dashes of vibrant purple are supplied by another butterfly favourite Verbena bonariensis, whose tall, willowy, see-through stems hover at almost chest height. I have naturalised Colchicum autumnale under some fruit trees. These beautiful bulbs push their way up through the grass with their purple/pink blousy petals, arriving without foliage (this comes later). Purples too in the delicate seed heads of Miscanthus sinensis, which are thriving in my clay and flint soil with the help of a slightly raised bed.
Due to the tough soil conditions here, I grow everything in raised bed, from a brick’s height for most of the borders, to a metre or so for the raised vegetable beds. These were filled initially with good top soil and home-made garden compost, but are topped up with well-rotted garden compost each spring to condition the soil as well as to help keep weeds out, and soil moisture in.
Then of course come my favourite container annuals – the ornamental cabbage with winter pansies, what a combination. Puprles, pinks and custard yellows cheerfully weave their way though the robust, yet riotous pansies, while the cabbage lends structure and form to a winning container combination that lasts right through to winter.
The garden really smells great at this time of year, with pungent sweet and sharp notes from fallen apples and decaying leaves, combined with warm, autumn rain. Autumn colour excels itself in many trees and shrubs too including Amelanchier, Sorbus, Prunus and Rhus. I love ornamental trees and grow several. Among my favourites is Mespilus germanica (Medlar) which is crammed with golf-ball sized fruits at this time of year, ready to be ‘bletted’ or softened by the frost, thereby making them edible. Another favourite is the handsome Acer griseum whose dainty leaves turn a warm, fiery red as autumn progresses, while the cinnamon-coloured bark peels back wantonly! Every garden should have an apple tree. I grow them either as small trees or trained espalier-style on horizontal wires.
Apple trees can easily be grown in containers if you don’t have a garden or expect to be on the move. Coronet (www.coronet.ie) specialise in miniature apple trees, and have a variety that has two different apples on one tree, and is also self-pollinating called a Family tree!
My autumn garden has come a long way over the years from a blank canvas start, but there is still a long way to go. I have yet to establish my favourite Michaelmas daisies Aster x frikartii Monch somewhere in the border, or grow the stunning annual Cleome, not to mention the ‘look at me!’ flashy pink bulb Nerine bowdenii. That’s the great thing about gardening, there’s always something to aspire to, whether you have a garden or grow in containers on a balcony.