David Overend looks at plants that will bring a splash of colour to the garden before winter arrives.
What a difference a bit of sunshine can make late in the year – with a little warmth, a host of plants can bring much-needed colour to the garden before winter decides to put an end to a disappointing 2016.
Michaelmas daisies (asters), Japanese anemones, chrysanthemums, perennial stonecrop (sedum) and coneflower daisies (Helenium, Echinacea and Rudbeckia) are already producing great displays.
There are potential problems, of course. With all the wet weather, the asters will need protection from powdery mildew if they are to flower in profusion, so a spray or two with the appropriate fungicide a couple of weeks apart is advisable and will even protect new growth.
If your garden lacks colour, then cheat a bit and visit a garden centre offering plenty of container-grown coneflowers which you can plant out immediately. They are perennials, so will provide colour for many years to come and will do well in any sunny, well-drained soil.
For pink flowers go for Echinacea “Prairies Splendour” or “Bressingham Hybrid”; for red, “Tomato Soup”, or orange “Hot Papaya” and “Vintage Wine” for pink/purple.
Sneeze weed (Helenium) varieties include “Ruby Tuesday” (copper red); “Double Trouble” (the first double yellow) and “Chelsey” (bright red with yellow flecks).
Rudbeckia plants provide good yellow and orange flowers on tall and short stems, with “Goldsturm” being the most popular choice for back-of-the-border stems l and dwarf Black-eyed Susan “Toto” better for the fronts of borders as it grows to a mere 25cm in height.
Tickseed (Coreopsis) will provide some vivid yellow flowers – for a flower on stems a metre or so high, plump for “Badengold”; for dwarf stems, choose the likes of “Goldfink”.
Newer breeds of different colours can be found in the Dancing Maiden series of Coreopsis that include chocolate and white (“Jive”); deep maroon (“Bolero”) and pink and white (“Soca”).
Most garden centres will also be encouraging gardeners to plant out trees and shrubs during autumn when the soil is still warm and damp enough to encourage good root growth.
You will see many shrubs for spring and summer colour and instant autumn flowers, and some brilliant Japanese maples (Acer) and smoke bush (Cotinus) for stunning autumn foliage.
But don’t be tempted into buying what looks good – think about what will grow, and where, in your garden before you open your wallet. Mistakes can be costly.