Late season colour
This is the time of year I wish I’d planted more for autumn and winter interest. A bit of forward planning goes a long way in the garden (and elsewhere I guess!) but it’s hard when the season is 12 months long and varies hugely depending on the weather, rampaging wildlife and our lack of spare time and energy. Hey ho.
Having said that we do have some late season stars here at Charnwood. One I’m gazing at right now is the dwarf Japanese Cherry, grown up name Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’. If you read this column regularly you may be tired of my plugs for this lovely small tree, but I ask you: have you planted one yet? It stands about 3.5 metres tall here at around 20 years old. In spring it has the most gorgeous almond pink flowers on bare, twisty branches. Right now its leaves are red, yellow and soft orange, like a cross between a bonfire and a firework. Close by is a group of bright pinky purple Autumn Crocus , not actually a crocus but a Colchicum. These are dead easy bulbs that nothing seems to eat, not even the pesky squirrels, and they flower year on year getting bigger and better. They prefer a sunny spot and some decent soil.
For brightly coloured stems in winter the multi stemmed dogwoods take some beating. The family is Cornus and it’s a big ‘un; there are large, flowering trees right down to little knee high shrubby ones. I’m talking here about the multi stemmed shrubs that glow bright all through winter. There are pink, red and yellow coloured types and most are unfussy about soil or site. Once they are established you can prune them hard back in early April to keep the new, bright stems coming. I cut back about a third of the stems just above the ground each year but it’s up to you and your space. If you give them a feed after pruning they will love you and keep going longer. I have a variegated leaf one called ‘Elegantissima’ that has real presence all through the summer too and looks lovely next to a red leafed Berberis.
For bright, in yer face red autumn colour try a Euonymus. Not the nasty little variegated blobs you see in municipal planting, but the small trees such as Euomymus alatus. Both that and the dogwoods are easily found in garden centres. I’ve recently paid a visit to the Six Acre nursery in Costock and have been really impressed with the range and quality of the plants. It has a café with good cake too!
Grasses can be a feature in autumn and winter too. Not all last beyond late summer and some descend into mush as soon as the frost and winter rain comes, but I’ve Miscanthus called ‘sliver stripe’ (pictured) that looks fabulous in autumn; it grows to just over a metre. Grasses are best planted and, if need be, lifted and divided in Spring when you can just see the first green blades coming up.