Thursday, 12 November 2015



Summer may now be truly over, but many plants go out in a blaze of glory to cheer us up before winter sets in. As gardeners we can capitalise on this by planting trees, shrubs and even fruit bushes for both autumn colour as well as fruit and flowers. Choice is usually determined by garden size, though we can all be tempted to buy that special plant we just have to grow even though our small gardens are just not big enough for them. My weakness happened after my year at College in Chelmsford studying my National Diploma. There was a massive spectacular blue atlas cedar in the college grounds. I knew that once I got a decent garden I would have to get one. Sure enough on moving to Darlington I purchased my Cedrus atlantica glauca which had a space of about six by six feet in the back garden. I enjoyed it for about eight years before realising it was going to need my whole garden plus a few of my neighbours as well. Unfortunately it had to go.
There is so much choice that selection for garden size is easy. Other factors to consider are privacy, shelter, a specimen for the lawn, closeness to the house and even food and shelter for birds. Although my cedar will be fine in any huge garden, its beautiful blue colour lasts all year round as it is evergreen and creates a perfect background for deciduous plants with good autumn colour. However if you wish to have some conifers with good colour then try some of the deciduous ones such as larch, Gingko or swamp cypress, Taxodium, but again check space available as some can ultimately require a fair bit of room. Coming down in size, you can’t go far wrong with our range of rowan trees in Scotland. They all have dazzling scarlet foliage in autumn plus ample berries of red, pink, white or yellow. On a similar size are the maples which are one of the first to show their dazzling autumn colours, though my favourite is the Japanese maples. Acer Sangokaku will grow up to ten feet tall
with brilliant golden autumn colours followed by red stems in winter. Other maples such as Acer palmatum atropurpureum with crimson foliage in summer turns a fiery red in autumn growing to about five feet tall. Other medium sized trees worth growing for autumn colour are the flowering cherries, liquidamber, amelanchiers and upright forms of hornbeam and oak.
However if your garden is too small for a wee tree there are plenty of shrubs to use from the deciduous azaleas, hammamelis molis, Cotinus the smoke bush, chokeberry and Spiraea. There are many more large, small and ground cover shrubs with excellent autumn foliage, so it is worthwhile growing some of these together so one colour enhances the other. My Euphorbia griffithi Fireglow has turned a decent shade of yellow, but with the fiery red dwarf maple behind it they both make a great splash of colour together. Down at ground level some of the evergreen heathers take on terrific autumn colours once they get a few frosty nights, particulary Calluna Goldsworth Crimson and Golden Feather. Climbing shrubs should not be
overlooked but be careful with the dazzling red Virginian creeper as it loves to climb and scramble to great heights. My favourite has to be the grape vine Brant mainly grown for autumn colour, but also provides us with an ample supply of small black sweet and juicy bunches of grapes that never fail to ripen up on my south wall.
Wee jobs to do this week

Bring wooden patio tables indoors for winter protection as they are most unlikely to be used for the next five months. Once they are totally dry they can be repainted with an outdoor varnish to last for another couple of years.
Once all the old tomato plants have been removed, the grapes harvested from vines and the leaves have all fallen off the inside of the greenhouse can be washed down to clean it up for the winter. If you get a good sunny day take the chance and wash the outside of the greenhouse, which can be very important for those who have applied some glass shading for the summer. I stopped that practise years ago as the sun in Scotland is just not strong enough to cause any problems unless you grow orchids.


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