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Discover articles on garden design, seasonal planting tips for your garden and other news and views from Gillian Goodson Designs.

Autumn’s bounty and splendour

  Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’  – late flowering cornflower  (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ – late flowering cornflower (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Turn up that dial on your energy levels this month! Don’t let the autumnal blues strike you down. Focus your spirits on autumn’s bounty and splendour and embrace the season in all its gloriousness. Allow yourself to be blown away by that late blast of colour before winter takes hold. 

Nature’s fireworks delight our souls with the astonishing Persian ironwood tree – Parrotia persica. It’s a wonderful choice for medium to large gardens, growing to 8m. Its wavy shaped leaves explode in red, orange and yellow set against a delightful flaky grey bark. 

If you have slightly more acid soil, then try Fothergilla major (witch alder), which commands your attention at this time of year. This slow-growing deciduous shrub (up to 2m) is best planted on the outer edges of a woodland garden where sunlight will heighten autumn leaf colour. It is a no-nonsense, low-maintenance choice for the garden.

The hardy perennial Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ (coneflower) will flower through to mid October if given the right sunny spot in your garden. This unashamedly pink daisy-like flower is shorter but sturdier stemmed that its species reaching to about 1m. It is an enchanting magnet for bees and butterflies – super as a cut flower. 

It is difficult not to include grasses when choosing plants for October interest. Consider Carex testacea (evergreen sedge to about 60cm) – makes fantastic clumps of orange-green and looks just as striking in a pot. Grasses look superb planted with perennials woven through them and in swathes for a naturalistic effect. Try also the arching clumps Anemanthele lessoniana (pheasant’s tail grass) with its wonderful streaks of yellows through to red growing to 1m – a reliable choice for drier soils. 

It’s time to tidy your borders and add mulch, lay new turf, plant bulbs, rake up fallen leaves and make leaf mould; prepare your soil, divide hardy perennials, harvest your apples and pears, lift potatoes and any remaining summer crops. Be on the lookout for the wondrous array of fungi emerging this season. 

As we roll up our sleeves to carve those pumpkins and perfect our cackles, don’t forget that clocks change near the end of the month. May we bubble, boil and bounce away to our heart’s desires.