Kate Hardy

Make an impact in your garden this autumn

Kate Hardy
Pensthorpe Millennium Garden in autumn with Echinacea, grasses, Sedum eupatorium and lythrum

Pensthorpe Millennium Garden in autumn with Echinacea, grasses, Sedum eupatorium and lythrum

Dazzling daisies and glorious grasses will give you instant impact for a colourful autumn, says Karen Murphy

I always think the garden saves its very best for last. After the delicacy of spring and early summer, which seems to specialise in mostly dainty blooms, all of a sudden bold, brash beauties come to the fore. They hold up, stout and strong through the autumn, as if they think we’re feeling a little blue after the heat of summer.

The best of the bunch – ones you know will perform until they simply can’t perform any more – are sedums and they’re everywhere at the moment. Real jewels of the season, zingy limes mix with ruby stems, while ‘Yellow Matrona’ and white ‘Stardust’ add a touch of creaminess to the display. 

In pots you have to consider vine weevil, but otherwise bung them in a sunny spot and you can leave them all year, bar trimming the dead stems in spring. Bees and hoverflies will love you for it, too.

Grasses come into their own now; you could have a whole bed of them, each a different colour and shape, evergreen or deciduous, and it would turn heads. At this time of year they flower with silky tassels blowing in the breeze, while their stems crisp up and turn russet; except for the limes, golds and blues of evergreen carex, fescue, and milium which stay like that all year and only need a comb-through with a fork in spring. Deciduous grasses, however, can simply be chopped down to new growth for early next year. 

But perhaps the most glorious and iconic plants of autumn are dazzling daisies in all colours, shapes and sizes. Breezy echinaceas, rudbeckias, fiery heleniums and the queens of them all, blue-purple asters, often flower until November. 

All like moist but well-draining, quite fertile soil and as much sun as you can give them. Leave the nicest and strongest crispy daisy stems through winter and chop them down in spring. Divide clumps that are losing vigour – easy maintenance all round!

All these are best planted in drifts, or if you don’t have the room, in at least fours or fives for best effect, channelling the prairie look that so sums up this month. 

It’s so simple to get instant impact – if you add a few grasses, sedums and daisy blooms now, you’ll get great autumn colour and years of interest, too!

3 spring bulbs... to plant now

1  Anemone blanda


Pretty blue low-growing daisies to plant under deciduous trees. Flowers appearfrom March.

2 Daffodil ‘Minnow’


Four to five white and yellow, beautifully scented blooms on each stem.

3 Iris reticulata


Slender, dwarf winter iris with deep purple petals, just when you need a bit of colour in early spring.

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