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Plants for a Fiery and Colorful Autumn Garden

Virginia Creeper

As we move into autumn how do you keep your garden looking vibrant when the summer bedding and hanging baskets have gone and your borders have just the odd bit of colour? Well with a bit of planning your garden can look great with lots of fiery autumn colour whatever size it is.There’s a wide choice of  plants to choose from that will give you glorious red, orange and yellow autumn foliage or colour in your pots and borders


Take a peek a some of the best stately gardens, like Stourhead,  and arboretums for inspiration with their fantastic spectacle of fiery autumn foliage in shades of red and orange supplied by stars of their landscape such as Parrotia persica, Liquidambar, Maples and the beautiful Katsura tree (Cercididphyllum japonicum)  Many of these trees are too large for the average garden but If you do have a larger plot with room they are well worth planting.

Parroti Persica Vz           Liquidambar styraciflua V2           Cercis canadensis V2

If Like most of us if your garden is more modest and you don’t have room for more than one or two more shrubs or trees then also squeeze in  plants like Sedum, Michaelmas Daisies, long lasting Dahlias and Salvias into your borders and add seasonal colour with autumn flowering bulbs like hardy cyclamen, colchicums and autumn crocus under trees and shrubs but remember they have to be planted in summer for an autumn display.

 Colchicum V2          Sedum V2           Cyclamen V2

Here are some of our favourites

Acer Palmatum  ‘Osakazuki’ This Japanese maple is grown mainly for its spectacular autumn colour, perhaps the best of all the maples.

Agastache (Hyssop) are attractive to bees and butterflies so a useful autumn plant that will flower into October and the first frosts.

Amelanchier lamarckii  (June Berry)is a stunning tree with young leaves that are bronze or coppery red and masses of star-shaped flowers in April and May. In summer, the leaves turn green and by early autumn the foliage turns a beautiful warm red and bronzed-orange.


Acer Palmatum Ozakasuki           Hyssop Blue Fortune            Amelanchier lamarkii


Callicarpa bodinieri var.giraldii  (The Beauty Berry )  'Profusion' produces large clusters of stunning and unusual purple berries in mid-autumn and has leaves with a golden purple tint.

Ceanothus (Californian Lilac) Autumn Blue an evergreen later flowering variety that flowers from August to October

Colchicums (Autumn Crocus) flower in September and October. The large blooms suddenly appear from bare earth without any leaves – hence the common name, naked ladies.

Callicarpa bodinieri            Ceanothus Autumn blue           Colchicum

Cornus Kousa (Chinese Dogwood) is a small tree or shrub Strawberry like red fruits are produced which are edible, but an acquired taste. The leaves are green and rounded changing to reds and purples in autumn a nd has a long spell of autumn colour making it an extremely suitable specimen tree for the small garden.

Cotinus coggyria (Smoke Bush) While purple-leaved Cotinus bushes can add a nice contrast to your garden in summer, the green-leaved Cotinus ‘Flame’ and ‘Grace’ have particularly spectacular autumn colour, turning  vibrant orange and red in autumn.

Cotoneaster horizontalis  Cotoneasters give beautiful displays of red berries in autumn.This one is popular for the characteristic herringbone pattern of its stems, which makes it useful trained across the ground or on a wall.

Cornus kousa chinensis            Cotinus coggygria            Cotoneaster horizontalis

Euonymus Alatus (Burning Bush) is a dense, bushy, deciduous shrub with dark green leaves turning brilliant shades of strawberry-red in autumn. This winged spindle is named after the large, corky wings that are revealed after it has shed its leaves. 

Gauras are bushy perennials that produce an abundance of delicate flowers, often right into November. Gaura lindheimeri  has an especially long flowering period. 

Hamamelis (Witch Hazels) lots to choose from with foliage that turns purple, red, orange and red in autumn like Hamamelis intermedia ‘Diane’  that In winter has clusters of sweetly scented, rich coppery-red flowers clinging to bare twigs. In autumn, the bright green leaves turn spectacular shades of yellow, orange and red

Euomnymus Alatus            Gaura Lindheimeri            Hamamelis Diane

Malus (Crab Apples) with colourful fruits and foliage, crab apples look wonderful in autumn. Malus Everest flushed with red-flushed, orange-yellow fruits in autumn that complement the orange-yellow leaves. It is an excellent tree for smaller gardens, with a pleasant conical shape.

Nandina Domestica (Heavenly Bamboo) ‘Firepower’ is a compact, upright evergreen shrub with compound leaves which are yellowish-green in summer, becoming orange and red in autumn and winter. Flowers small, white, in conical panicles in summer

Nerine bowdenii Most nerines are tender greenhouse bulbs, but Nerine bowdenii can be grown outdoors in a warm, sunny border backed by the shelter of a wall. They will reward you with a late display of lipstick-pink flowers

Malus Evereste             Nandina domestica            Nerines Bowdenii

Parthenocissus henryana (Chinese Virginia Creeper)is less vigorous than other varieties and can be useful for a north-facing wall in a small garden. Its foliage is more delicate as well, with a velvety texture and silvery-white veins; it turns a fiery crimson in autumn

Rudbeckia (Coneflower) ‘Goldsturm’ will flower well into October with large, golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers up to 12cm (5in) across with cone-shaped, blackish-brown centres from August to October.

Symphyotrichum Asters flower mainly in late summer and autumn and bring a splash of welcome colour to borders but like a sunny bright pot to flower well.

 Parthenocissus henryana (Chinese Virginia Creeper)            Rudbeckia            Aster

Viburnums are an essential shrub for the winter garden, giving much-needed scent and flower when there is little else. Most have glorious autumn colour including Viburnum x burkwoodii 'Mohawk' 

Pyracantha - great display of autumn berries is what makes this plant worth growing

Rhus typhina has an absolutely stunning display of autumn colour and is grown as either a shrub or small tree 

Viburnum burkwoodii            Pyracantha            Rhus typhina

Great in Pots

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Hardy Plumbago) this spreading, deciduous shrub brings welcome colour to the garden in late summer and early autumn when many other flowers have gone over. Masses of disc-shaped, vivid cobalt-blue flowers appear from August to October, and in autumn, the leaves turn a rich russet-red. It's best in towards the front of a sheltered, sunny border in soil that does not get too dry.

Viola Tricolor (Pansies) Various kinds of pansies and violas are sold in flower during autumn. Many stop when conditions turn cold, but real winter-flowering pansies will keep blooming until late spring, with only short breaks during very cold spells.

Calluna (Flowering heathers) These are a favourite as they handle bad weather well and have a long flowering season, from November to March. They come in various colours, including white, pink, mauve and purple, while varieties with orange or golden foliage are also available. Winter heathers team well with evergreen shrubs, including berrying kinds. After flowering, replant in the garden.

Ceratostigma Plumbaginoides             Viola Tricolor (Pansies)             Calluna (Flowering heathers)

Outdoor chrysanthemums are sold in full flower now, so just stand the pots in position for an instant effect. They’re only suitable for autumn displays as the first proper frost will kill them off, but if you bring them inside – to an unheated conservatory or enclosed porch – they should continue to flower for a few more weeks.

Cyclamen not the hardy ones, but autumn bedding look great in pots. As with the outdoor chrysanthemums, these are killed by the first hard frost, but they will last all winter if moved indoors to a conservatory or cool room.

Posted by Charlie Groves

Charlie is the manager at Groves Nurseries.  He is the 6th generation of C.W. Groves to run the garden centre. 

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