Debby Lockey Gardening Blog October 2015

Autumn colours in your Garden

By Debby Lockey, local Garden Designer and’s gardening blog writer

Like most people who work outside, I feel that autumn is well and truly here. The nights are rapidly closing in, there is a heavy dew on the ground come morning and the sun’s rays are lower making the colours in the garden richer and quite spectacular.


The wet summer has meant that growth this year has been lush and unchecked. So hopefully these conditions plus the Indian Summer we had before all the rain came, will result in a glorious display of leaf colour.


Gorgeous colours of the Acer

 The beautiful colours of the Acer at their best in autumn


In my own garden the Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ has already turned from a rather mucky ruddy colour to a fantastic red. If you want to grow other shrubs that give a good autumn show, try planting enkianthus or fothergilla, both or which like an acid soil so should be happy in and around the New Forest.


Trees with berries also come into their own at this time of the year. For smaller gardens try growing a crab apple – there are many to choose from - or a sorbus. Sorbus vilmorinii is an elegant choice with feathery lime green leaves and white fruit that the birds don’t seem to want so they stay on the tree for longer.


For something slightly different try Callicarpa bodinieri var giraldii. This shrub produces violet berries in autumn. My daughter used to collect these when she was little as they look like small beads. Don’t worry they are not poisonous, but they are too bitter to be edible.


Choose a site which makes the most of the autumn light


Before planting these shrubs, try to choose a site that will allow either the low morning or evening sun to shine through the leaves. The result is a startling blaze of colour akin to light shining through a stained glass window.


From a designer’s point of view I love autumn, as now you have the chance to assess your plants. Most haven’t died back completely so you can see whether they work for their site. Are they too big for the space, does their colour and shape complement the border, and have they thrived in that position? If you have any doubts about any of these criteria now is the time to get in and start moving the plants around.


Evergreens can be moved as the soil is still warm, and there is usually more moisture in the soil than during summer. The plants are therefore happy to send out lots of new roots. This will enable them to become well established so they can withstand a cold winter. However do bear in mind that during the move some of the plant’s roots will have been severed. You will therefore need to water them during any dry spells.


Perennials can also be divided and rejuvenated in autumn. Do this to any plants that haven’t flowered particularly well this year or have outgrown their space. This can be done by either digging up the plant, then inserting two forks back to back to prise the root ball apart, or by cutting the root ball up with a knife. Discard the old central plant and use the younger plants on the outside of the clump. As a designer I like to repeat plant in a flower border, as this provides rhythm and a feeling of unity in the garden. So feel free to move those divided clumps around your garden.


Plant your spring bulbs now


Also, don’t forget this is the time to start planting your spring bulbs, but leave planting tulip bulbs until November when it is colder. If planted too early the warmer conditions can encourage fire blight in the tulips; a fungal disease caused by Botrytis tulipae. If you choose the right bulbs you really can have flowers all year round. Wonderful.


That’s it for now, happy autumn gardening, Debby


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