Most gardens are at their best at a certain time of year and maybe do not look so great at other times. It’s fairly easy to get your garden looking good in spring with daffodil and tulip bulbs and emerging foxglove buds. Summer is a series of highs with lupins, hostas, roses, lavenders and hardy geraniums all coming into full bloom. In winter we can look forward to cyclamen, hellebores, heather, sarcococca and the frosted outline of trees and shrubs to keep the gardening looking interesting.
Autumn for many gardeners though is the most difficult season. The beautifully floriferous garden of summertime is fading back, some perennials are starting to yellow and die back and yet the potential for the garden is not yet over for the year. So what perennials can you pop in your garden now or in spring to ensure you have colour and form in September and October next year?
For a Sunnier Spot
Echinacea and rudbekia are great for late colour from the end of August right through to the end of October and they do best in full or partial sun. Make sure for rudbekia that you buy a perennial variety and not an annual one so that it cane planted once and left to come back very year. Both echinacea and rudbekia will spread a little every year giving you more blooms for your buck. Like all perennial plants, after a few years, you can dig up the clump and divide it to give you more plant divisions to plant on in another spot in the garden.
Sedums are great for late autumn colour and although they have been renamed Hylotelephium, most gardeners will still refer to them as sedums. They should be planted in full sun if possible but they will tolerate some shade. Sedums prefer poor, dry soils and are very drought tolerant but they will thrive in almost any soil that does not get waterlogged.
The relatively new perennial foxglove is different in variety to the regular garden biennial foxglove which dies off after it has flowered and set seed. The perennial foxglove is sterile and so blooms over a longer period as it has no need to set seed. A great magnet for pollinators, they flower right through September and their tall, upright habit means you could squeeze a few into those awkward spaces between plants. Unlike regular foxgloves which we know as woodland, shade loving plants, these new perennial Foxgloves will do well in full sun or part shade.
A garden favourite is Salvia ‘Amistad’ which can give colour right through until November. Salvia ‘Amistad’ is a bushy, upright perennial with rich royal purple flowers and it is a sun lover. It can be grown in borders or pots and likes full sun and well-drained soil. Although a perennial, a wet, soggy winter can kill it off so the choice is either to dig it up and kept it protected during winter or leave it in the ground but protect the roots and basal buds by covering in a thick layer of manure or bark chippings.
For a Shadier Spot
If it is a more shaded area where you are looking add some autumn colour, astrantia thrive in woodland, shaded and partial shaded areas and they and like a moist, fertile soil. They will flower for a long period, right up until the end of October if planted in a cool spot and like other perennials, once they get established, they will gradually spread.
Another shade lover to think about planting in the garden is a hydrangea. They come in shades of blue, purple, pink and white and are very low maintenance plants. The best time for planting is in Autumn or early Spring and a semi-shaded spot with a little afternoon sun is ideal. Blue Hydrangeas need ericaceous soil to remain blue but other than that, and regular watering, all hydrangeas are easy to look after.
A white hydrangea makes a real statement in the garden as they add height and show stopping big, blousy blooms which last through to autumn. The panicle varieties with their cone-shaped heads which can grow up to 3 metres in height are the real stunners. White hydrangeas do not need to be planted in any special kind of soil, they remain white regardless of soil pH. They are a deciduous, hardy perennial, which means they will lose their leaves and die back at the end of autumn and green up again from late spring without needing any special kind of winter protection.
Japanese Anemones grow best in part shade in well-drained, moist soil. The most common colours which you’ll find for your garden are pale pinks and whites so they are perfect for lighting up a dark corner of the garden and do well right back of a border as they grow tall. They also make a great growing combination with hardy geraniums and will find their way through to tower above the foliage.
Do not let autumn be a dull time your garden as there are lots of perennial plants which can extend the season of colour and interest right through September and October. If in any doubt, visit a garden centre this month to see what it is bloom right now in your local area and commit to planting something now which will brighten up your garden for years to come.