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The early Autumn garden | how to create a fall haven

I love autumn in my garden. Though many plants are preparing for dormancy, and most of the stronger summer colour is gone, there is something so restful and beautiful about the garden at this of the year. With temperatures becoming cooler we also tend to get some lovely crisp, sunny days which draw us outside and with a little thought we can create lovely spaces to enjoy even in the cooler months.

 

Personally, I love being out in the garden at this time of the year, and I often bring out blankets, storm lanterns and cushions to my patio to create a space which is beautiful, cosy and warm. I always think its the ideal time for bonfires which are a great way of celebrating the changing of the seasons as well as roasting marshmallows while wrapped in blankets. With a little bit of thought your outdoor space can be used almost in any season and there are a few tips that I think are great for making this happen. 

First of all, consider cover. We all know that there are not many days in Ireland where we don’t see some form of rain or drizzle. In most of my garden designs this is the first and foremost advice I would give my clients. If you want to make your garden space truly liveable in ensure you have some form of rain cover to enjoy it from. I love pergolas, glazed, roofed, whether metal or timber, these open sided covers are fantastic ways of blending the indoor space with the outdoor space and can be great solutions to creating an outdoor living room. 

 

Another option is of course a glasshouse or greenhouse which is near the house and becomes a lovely space to relax in during the colder months. This solution could even give you a space to grow produce such as tomatoes and cucumbers as well as salads such as rocket almost throughout the whole year and if you create a small seating area in a greenhouse which is also pretty and comfortable, you can literally eat the tomatoes off the vine while enjoying a good book! Gazebos are also a great way to enjoy the garden in colder months and can become focal points in the garden from which you can enjoy the changing of the seasons from throughout the year. 
When it comes to enjoying your space through all seasons the idea of seasonal planting of course is very important. From evergreen winter colour such as Hellebores and Spring bulbs there are so many choices out there to create interesting changing displays that evolve with the seasons. 
With the explosion of the summer growing season now truly over and the plants in the garden starting to prepare itself for autumn there is no need to only concentrate on the rusty red tones we associate with this season. There are some really gorgeous plants that bring vibrant colour accents to the garden for this time and many of them just need a little planning ahead to make for a really stunning display. 

 

When choosing plants for this time I like to think that there needs to be a balance of hot and cold colours. The garden naturally starts to evolve into a rust, red scheme, with oranges and yellows dominating the landscape. Grasses can really help enhance this seasonal change and ornamentals such as Calamagrostis‘Karl Foerster’  and Anemanthele lessioniana , both of which are magical in borders at this time of the year. Other plants that accentuate the fiery tones of Autumn include Heleniums such as the rich red of the ‘Chelsey’ variety or the copper tones of the ‘Moerheim Beauty’ which both added fiery tones to the border. Then there is the fiery, yellow Rudbeckia which is incredibly floriferous and added lovely accents of egg yolk yellow to the border and has gorgeous, near black centres which stand out vibrantly against the yellow. 

 

Considering all these fiery colours in the garden, I love the idea of adding some cool accents to the Autumn scheme making for a wonderful contrast of hot and cold. 

One of my all time favourites is the tall Verbena bonariensis which rises well above most other plants, their cool purple accents adding dramatic height to the garden. This plant is such a stunner in the Autumn garden, elegantly branching out into many clusters of lilac flowers. The fact that it is a very delicate, branching plant means it works as wonderfully in the back of a border as it does in the middle and even the front. With the stems so delicate and green, the plant almost appears to float above the there plants making it such a useful plant for the early Autumn garden.
A big bonus is that these flowers are loved by insects and will help sustain bees and butterflies at a time when there is not that much out there for them. Interestingly it is also a great filler plant as the rigid stems support other plants growth and help support other Autumn gems such as Dahlias.

 

Another stunner is the Hyssop, or Agastache with the ‘Blue fortune’ variety being one of my favourites for the Autumn garden. These long flowering perennials have stunning lavender coloured spire shaped flowers from July all the way through to October and are another bee friendly plant. It looks fantastic mixed in with the ornamental grasses, adding great accent and congrast to the rusted tones. An added bonus is the aromatic scented foliage. This plant, much like the Verbena, is fabulous when left standing over the Winter months with the browned flowerhead becoming beautiful sculptures in icy conditions. 

 

So, whether considering enhancing your space through architecture or planting accents, there are many ways of making your Autumn space a more joyful and more usable space for you. 

Sligo Races Ladies Day Photo by Colin Gillen

Autumn ideas for the small garden
Another idea for creating interest in the Autumn garden is adding some colourful containers to the garden, patio or balcony. I love starting with the idea that a container still follows the design rules of the border. Think about creating some height-by using grasses. Pennisetum rubrum-the red fountain grass for example, looks amazing with a red-hot Autumn scheme. Add some colour spires- Agastache will do well in containers as will late flowering Salvias. Then consider some ball shapes- such as Dahlias and Chrysanthemums. Dahlias are wonderful additions for containers as they are easy to lift and divide from there, when the season is over. And last but not least, don’t forget to think about some cascading accents-how about being cheeky and using some rusty coloured nasturtiums towards the front which will cascade down the planter?

Tip: If you want too make the display last longer through the season, add some green Ivy or grasses such as Festuca glauca, which last a long time and look great in containers.

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Photo By: Colin Gillen

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