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A sunny autumn border makes this time of year much more enjoyable than a garden full of prematurely “tidy” brown soil. Rather than an early bedtime, think of this season as a planting opportunity to be grabbed with both hands; not only is there a rich palette of grasses and perennials to be explored, but the crystal clear light of autumn adds jewel-box sparkle to herbaceous borders. As the sun sinks lower, it slants through airy stems picking up texture, silhouette and movement in fading light. When frost arrives the seed heads sparkle and, if you’re lucky, hungry flocks of finches frisk through.
Now, of course, is the ideal time to plant, so pick a site that will be spotlit by the low sun and visit some well-planted autumn gardens for inspiration (Learn more see the Public Gardens links in this article). You need to plant in threes at least, and balance those dominant golden yellows with strong foxy reds, purples, pinks, mulberries and deep blues. This prevents a late-flowering scheme from taking on the bilious look of piccalilli. Autumn is also daisy time, and the aster family is invaluable. Long before flowers appear, the tiny buds, the black stems, the whorls of leaf that unfold from sheathed cigarillo-like stems hold the eye.
The daisy flowers, like spinning saucers, tend to face heavenwards as they wait for a late butterfly or two, and they need contrasting shapes to prevent monotony – vertical spikes and spires, airy wands, umbels and bobbles. A grassy backbone is an essential too, because grasses add movement and unite your planting.
Late summer progresses into autumnSeptember is generally a cooler, gustier month than August and the days are noticeably shorter. While there's not as much to do in the ornamental garden at this time of the year, if you have a fruit or vegetable patch, you'll be busy reaping the rewards of harvest. It's also time to get out and start planting spring-flowering bulbs for next year and you can collect seeds for next summer's colour too. Make the most of the remaining warmth while you can!
- (1) - Divide herbaceous perennials
- (2) - Pick autumn raspberries
- (3) - Plant spring flowering bulbs
- (4) - Collect and sow seed from perennials and hardy annuals
- (5) - Dig up remaining potatoes before slug damage spoils them
- (6) - Net ponds before leaf fall gets underway
- (7) - Keep up with watering of new plants, using rain or grey water if possible
- (8) - Lay Grass Turf
- (9) - Start to reduce the frequency of houseplant watering
- (10) - Clean out cold frames and greenhouses so that they are ready for use in the autumn
- (11) - Cover leafy vegetable crops with bird-proof netting
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