Since that decided nip arrived in the air last week, it feels as though autumn is definitely here, although the golden sunny days might hang around for a little while yet if we’re lucky. It can be easy to give up on the garden at this time of year and I’ve definitely been guilty of that myself over the last month or so. As summer ends and growth slows, things tend to get overgrown and a bit neglected, plants sprawling and looking past their best – just like humans do at the end of a party. Not that anyone can remember what a party’s like just now, obviously.
This ‘After the Ball is Over’ feeling can stop you appreciating what the garden still has to offer as autumn gets into gear, and it’s easy to give it all up and retire inside until spring comes calling. But this year more than ever, we need to get every ounce of enjoyment from our gardens, and make the most of what nature has to show us before she goes into hibernation.
Late flowering perennials are a good way to bridge that greenish gap from summer ending to autumn really blazing with leaf colour. Larger gardens can accommodate drifts and swathes of later perennials with grasses mixed in, so you can devote a whole area to them. In smaller spaces though you need to get clever and figure out which of them suits your particular space the best – its soil, aspect and growing conditions – and concentrate on just one or two varieties, with three or more plants in each group to make visual impact. Here are some reliable candidates:
Persicaria ‘Darjeeling Red’ – you can see these just over my left shoulder in the picture – small red and pink spikes of flowers on a spreading evergreen mat of foliage.
Aster frikartii ‘Monch’ – also known as the Michaelmas daisy, this is a large flowered, reliable cultivar with mauve daisy shaped blooms.
Anemone japonica – very happy in a shady spot, white ‘Honorine Jobert’ and pale pink ‘September Charm’ are both excellent.
The end of summer doesn't have to mean the end of colour in the garden.
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