With the summer season truly behind us, the changing colours of the autumn leaves signify it’s time to put the garden to bed. At Aberglasney, our autumn clearing is well underway and we’re busy cutting back our Woodland Garden, however, it’s important to take a moment to pause and appreciate those plants that continue to flower well into the autumn months.
For me personally, autumn flowering bulbs fall into two categories: 1) Those that are autumn flowering, like autumn bulbs and Cyclamen, 2) Plants that start flowering in the summer and keep going until the frost hits them. I’m particularly interested in the latter as they give such a long period of interest – they can flower well into November if you get a mild autumn! At Pershore, I was always very proud of my New Guinea impatiens which still looked great in the first week of November.
Verbena are either reliably perennial or will seed around, but Verbena rigida should be propagated by cuttings in the autumn. Another plant that does this particularly well is Gaura lindheimeri which has either white or pink flowers, although there are a few different types available. It flowers from mid-summer right through to the frost. However, many plants that flower into the frost are relatively tender and require winter protection and lifting. They generally prefer south facing borders and start flowering late in the season. Dahlia, Salvia and Verbena are great examples and they also combine well in borders together. Dahlia’s need lifting in winter for best results, but many perennial Salvia will come through winter just fine. Both come in a huge variety of colours and flowers. Most Salvia should be propagated by cuttings in autumn or spring and will make good flowering specimens by the autumn season.
Autumn flowering plants can really lift the spirits late in the season. Asters autumn flowering Crocus, Colchicum and Cyclamen have all given fine displays at Aberglasney this year. The Colchium are a particular favourite of mine as they throw their leaves in spring which is quite a sight in itself. Seeing a beautiful mass of purple and pink flowers bursting out of the ground in autumn is quite spectacular.
Another welcome sight in shaded or woodland gardens is Sanguisorba, which produces arching bottle brush flowers in October. For me, the true stars of autumn are Ginger Lilies (Hedychium) which are a real luxury. They have glorious tropical foliage and spectacular candle stick flowers. They aren’t always hardy but came through the last winter miraculously. Their flowers only last a week or two at most and it’s very late into leaf, but sometimes a plant can be tricky yet completely wort it. They also make brilliant pot plants or conservatory plants and can be planted for summer, much the same as a Dahlia.
Tips for the Week:
- Onion sets can still be planted
- Bare root Gooseberry plants can be planted
- Lawn maintenance can still be done, both scarifying and seeding
- When cutting back Gunnera, the old leaves can be placed on top of the crowns as protection for the winter
- Dead head Roses ready for winter pruning