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Autumn Colour

It may be nearly the end of the growing season but there is no reason for the autumn garden to lack colour. Albert Camus put his finger on it when he said: ‘Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower’. And foliage is not the only way to bring colour into the autumn garden – fruit and berries will also contribute a fiery blaze.

Even the smallest garden should have at least one plant whose job it is to contribute some autumn drama. Some plants are excellent value and provide interest for more than one season. The Japanese Snowball Bush(Viburnum ‘Mariesii’) is a wonderful diva of the shrub world. It needs to take centre stage in a border but will not only provide pretty lacecap heads of white flowers in late spring but also has an architectural layered structure that looks good throughout the year. It has the added bonus of red-purple autumn foliage that hangs from the branches like decorations.


 Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii'
Viburnum ‘Mariesii’

Crabapples are also good value, providing spring blossom and autumn colour as well as fruits. Ornamental cherries are another tree that pull the double act of spring blossom and fiery autumn foliage. One of the most popular multi-season interest trees among landscape architects is the serviceberry, Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Ballerina’ is a reliable variety. It’s not fussy about conditions and has white flowers against bronze young foliage in spring and good autumn colour. Perhaps the most spectacular berries are from our native spindle (Euonumus europaeus) . They are a fantastically garish combo of orange and pink – very seventies!

Crabapples provide year round interest

Perhaps one of the most popular trees for autumn colour is the Japanese Maple (Acer palmaturm or Acer japonicum). It is a little fussy about position, though. Make sure it has a sheltered position, out of strong sunlight. Acer p. ‘’Osakazuki’ has particularly fiery autumn colour and Acer p. ‘Sango Kaku’ has the added bonus of red stems for winter drama.

 acer leaves
Keep Japanese Maples out of cold winds

If you have a tiny garden an easy way to create the autumn colour is to use climbers. The classic choices are Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) or Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Beware, though, they are both quite vigorous – which is why you see them covering entire buildings! Keep them under control to avoid being swamped.

Lastly, don’t restrict yourself to thinking about foliage and berries when it comes to autumn colour in the garden. Cyclamen hederifolium has lovely little flowers that will go on for weeks. It has attractive heart-shaped leaves that make good groundcover throughout the year. You will see its larger cousin sold as a winter bedding plant but this daintier version is completely hardy and will cheer up your autumn for years.

Dainty Cyclamen hederifolium


Michelle Wake in Frome nr Bath, Somerset, UK on Houzz

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