Gardening / Colour to brighten dreary days

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Plant hollyhocks and lupin seedlings for spring colour.

ENTERING the second month of autumn as the leaves fall in earnest and the landscape is looking bare, we look for colour in the garden to brighten up those inevitable dreary days.

Cedric Bryant.

Now’s the time to discover a large range of autumn-flowering perennials at the local garden centres, starting with Anemone hupehensis or Japanese anemones. They are to be loved or hated depending on whether you are a true gardener. If you do not just love the mass of bright pink or white it is due to their ease of self-propagation, spreading through the garden. However, the true gardener knows that after flowering it is simply a matter of pulling out the surplus. Once the ideal number is arrived at simply cut the rest to ground level.

Salvias are another super autumn flowerer with a large range of colours. Cutting them to ground level after flowering last winter or early spring the foliage slowly grows through summer. Then in autumn quite suddenly we are rewarded with their beauty. Salvias range in height from 50cm to 1.5m to suit every garden. Or simply grow the low ones in front graduating to the taller ones at the rear. Naturally this will depend on your garden size. Keeping in mind the most effective way of presenting solid blocks of colour is to plant each variety in groups of three, five or seven. This will look far more attractive than one of this and one of that. In summer, as the foliage grows, I cut this back by a third at least three times before March to encourage bushiness and more flowers.

Asters or Michaelmas daisies, so called for their flowering in the northern hemisphere at that time, are a cut-and-come-again perennial. They start flowering quite early in autumn and after the first flush I cut them to ground level. I did this in March and already, within weeks, I have a mass of the second crop of flowers. Don’t be frightened of hard pruning of the foliage as they grow through summer.

Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy”, the deep pink variety, has been flowering well in the last few weeks. The flower heads have started to turn bronze and over the next few weeks the thick flower stalks can be cut to ground level.

S.s. “Iceberg” is naturally the white variety. The amazing thing about sedums is that the stalks will be affected by frost but, once cut back, tiny new shoots start immediately to appear. The tender new shoots are untroubled by frost and will continue to grow through winter. By early spring these new shoots will be up to 30 centimetres high.

Chrysanthemums for mother and autumn garden colour.

CHRYSANTHEMUMS are recognised universally as the Mother’s Day flower. They are so easy to grow, most dying back in mid-winter, growing through summer to burst forth in mid-autumn. Likewise, they benefit with reducing the foliage a few times in summer for more stems and flowers. I always suggest you give mum a potted chrysanthemum rather than a bunch of flowers. After flowering they can then be planted in the garden or in a pot, or even divided for several pots.

WE still need some steady rain over several days to keep the garden going through winter. When we have long periods of dry, frosts have a far more dramatic effect on garden plants. This means that while cold days stay consistently dry, gardens will still need to be watered.


  • Plant Russell lupins and hollyhocks now, feed fortnightly with certified organic Maxicrop Seaweed Plant Nutrient.
  • Plant lilium bulbs now.
  • Last chance for planting those spring bulbs or digging up existing ones to divide or transplant from shade to a sunny spot.
  • Plant bright orange calendulas around the veggie patch to discourage pest insects.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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