Designing your garden this Autumn
Autumn is the best time to design your garden!
You can still see the echoes of Summer planting, late summer and Autumn growth is still often going strong, and as the weather gets colder and as you clear away more and more of this year’s debris, the underlining lines and shapes of the garden reveal themselves.
We beg our own garden design clients to start the garden design process in the Autumn!
If you start now you can have all the time you need to spend the Autumn assessing what worked in the Summer, what is needed in the Spring and how you would like your garden to look over the long Winter months without worrying that you have too many tasks to do.
Also hard landscaping can be done over Winter and with planting in early Spring, you can have a revamped garden ready to burst into action by March and April.
Here are some ways to think about your garden.
Does your garden feel naturally well balanced, or are there blobs of planting that make it lopsided?
Does the patio look too small compared to the lawn or does the new shed stick out like a sore thumb?
Does the vertical sides of the garden look in proportion to the horizontal length? In a small garden normally this would be a 1-3 ratio.
Good proportions can be achieved by balancing the evergreen components of the planting, extending or reshaping paths and patios and bringing in feature trees to create a canopy affect rather than have all the planting at the same height.
Even a raised bed can follow the Golden Mean ratio system of the Greeks to give it natural proportions- 8 foot by 5 foot.
Paths and patios, small walls and raised beds can all give your garden a strong structural element which the planting can then soften over the season. You can also use hedges to divide up spaces, or trellis and lattices to create different levels. Does your garden look really good on a cold, grey Winter’s day? If yes the ‘bones’ of your garden are in good shape and with this strong structural element it is pretty hard to go wrong when it comes to planting.
As well as strong bones, rhythm is vital and it is often what most distinguishes an amateur garden from one that looks professionally designed. This can be achieved by repetitive planting in large swathes or interesting motives in walls and paths that are repeated. A garden can be thought of as a frozen piece of music in time, and we know how essential rhythm is in music.
Now is the time to look at your garden from different perspectives. Is your eyes and your body drawn to different areas of the garden. Focal points can drawn you on into a garden rather than just watching it from one perspective. Old gates, urns, sundials and water features can be placed to serve this function. It is better t have less of them and go for bigger, better quality products. Just think of gardens with too many pots or sculpture. you don’t know where to look and the whole garden looks like a jumble sale rather than a unique personal space that lures you deeper into its mysteries.
Plants like chrysanthemums and Asters, Dahlias and Ceratostigma flower well on to the beginnings of Winter. If you make regular visits to bursaries this month you will see the flowering stock of plants and know that next year you will have good performing plants. Some favourites of mine are Hydrangea and Japanese anemones which catch the Autumn light with their pale flowers lit up.
Colourful foliage is the obvious choice for Autumn. In terms of small trees you could look up Japanese Acer, Cornus kousa, the Spindle Tree, Genko, Cercis and well as Rhus and Amelanchier.
Seed heads, so beloved by English gardens since the turn of the Century create a lovely dark structural foil for the abundant yellows and orange of Autumn. The humble Chive, Circium, Echinops, Cornflowers and Phlomis and well as ornamental grasses such as Pampas, Stipa gigantia, Hakonechloa and Panicum all turn beautiful colours and catch the sun setting lower in the sky at this time of year.
Lastly this is the time for planting bulbs. Hopefully you have made notes last Spring about where more colour is needed. Please read last months article about different possibilities.
What to do in your garden in October
Now is the time to move plants around the garden or plant up new ones. The soil is still warm for the roots to establish but there is less chance of the plants drying out.
You can divide most Perennials now including Rhubarb and balance up your garden by taking the other half to a different place.
You can still plant lettuce and can start sowing Chinese winter greens and Spring Cabbage.
Repairing your lawn can start now with the cooler weather, either using pre grown turfs or seeding into prepared earth.
Your lawn treatment can start this month with aerating the garden with a strong fork and raking out moss and thatch.
Lastly you can cut back shrubs like Buddlea and Lavatera to about half their height to neaten them up and prevent strong winter winds rocking them about- the more fundamental pruning happens in Spring
What to see in October
Take a visit to Sheffield Park in Ukfield. You will have to wear sunglasses as the beauty of the Autumn leaves will blow you away. Next months article will feature an article on the Head Gardener, Andy Jesson.