Gardening: ‘This is one of the best times of year for planting’

MY GARDEN is starting to look distinctly over; few plants are still in flower and autumn colours and berries are few and far between as yet.

The majority of plant types, such as alpines and herbaceous perennials, look their best in spring and summer, and we always tend to buy spring flowering bulbs, but there are many wonderful autumn flowering ones. The following suggestions will add autumn colour and this is one of the best times of year for planting, while the soil is still nice and warm.

• Autumn Flowering Herbaceous Perennials: the Japanese anemones, Anemone hupehensis and Anemone hybrida. The orange and yellow daisy flowers of heleniums such as ‘Moorheim beauty’ and ‘The Bishop’ are well worth space in a border. Keep the late bees and butterflies busy with the structural flowers of Echinops ritro, whose flowers are tough enough to stay on all winter to give added structure to the garden.

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• Bulbs that flower at this time of year: the magnificent Nerine bowdenii. For best results, grow this one in free-draining soil in a south-facing bed – it also makes a great cut flower. Under trees and shrubs in areas that are unlikely to be disturbed, try planting the autumn-flowering hardy Cyclamen hederafolium, its 1-2inch wide corm will grow to dinner plate size over the years and reward you with hundreds of flowers if you can leave it undisturbed.

• Grasses don’t spring readily to mind when talking about autumn colour but one or two are spectacular at this time of year. Try Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’ and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Carl Foster’, which is reputed to withstand 100mph winds, if you are looking for height.

• Alpine and low-growing plants that look fantastic at this time of year include one of my favourites, Persicaria affinis ‘Donald Lowndes’ with its spires of pink flowers. Others include little Aster linariifolius with its blue daisy flowers and gentians.

So there’s the excuse that you have been looking for to go to the garden centre this weekend, and of course have a coffee and some of that nice cake while you’re there.

• Ann Burns, Team Leader Horticulture and Landscape Construction, Oatridge College ([email protected], www.oatridge.ac.uk)