An Autumn Rainbow

An Autumn Rainbow

I love the change from lazy summer days to crisp and colourful autumn ones in the garden. Although I’m less happy with the thought of long winter months to come, early autumn is a magical time for our ever-changing landscape. Here in a sheltered corner of eastern England we are having the beginnings of a lovely October, with a fair few mild sunny days to show off the developing autumn leaves. Even a trip down the A12 is a little lovelier than normal  right now since the field maples have turned golden yellow, backlit against blue skies.  

I’m hoping this autumn will really be a colourful one, but that entirely depends on the weather to come. As the weather turns cooler in autumn plants know to stop growing and start clawing back energy from the leaves it no longer needs. As green chlorophyll is broken down to release this energy the yellow, orange, red and purple pigments that are usually masked by it are revealed. A relatively wet summer like we’ve had this year allows trees to create lots of chlorophyll, so we just need the cold autumn nights to really bring out the colour. 

I’m taking my own advice this year by planting some real autumn dazzlers in my garden. A Cotinus (smoke bush) planted this Spring is now centre stage, glowing amber amongst red and purple tints. A normally very ordinary fence is now clothed in crimson Virginia creeper, which looks unexpectedly good with the last red penstemons and bronzey sedums in front.

This is also the time when ornamental grasses really come into their own. In flower now, with the low sunlight showing off their graceful outline and movement. My favourite at the moment is Miscanthus Kleine Silberspinne, a very compact variety, useful for a small space to give height and movement.

But of course it’s not all about beautiful leaf colour in autumn. Think of all the other ways you can bring colour into your garden in the darker months. Leave the last roses for their hips to ripen, the scarlet hips of Rosa moyesii being as beautiful as the flowers themselves. Crab apples do sterling work in the garden with their spring blossom and crimson or golden fruits abundant right now. And it’s reportedly a good year for all types of berries, with Pyracantha (firethorn), Cotoneaster, and Sorbus (rowan) all starting to light up. The birds will be very happy with that.

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