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

Looking towards autumn

Calycanthus  ‘Venus’ - exquisite magnolia-like flowers  (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Calycanthus ‘Venus’ - exquisite magnolia-like flowers (Gillian Goodson Designs)

There are days when it is easier to submit to feelings of lacklustre and gormlessness. Tempting as it is to close the blinds and shut out the world, tackle it head on – head outside. It’s astounding what fresh air and a change of scenery can do – the perfect tonic!

Consider ways of extending interest. We often think of planting up containers in spring – try your hand at an autumn planter; and start planning (and planting) your spring-flowering bulbs – but hold off on your tulips for now. Include plants in your garden that have interest beyond peak summer. I first stumbled across Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’ (Carolina allspice) a few years ago at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It’s worth tracking down this multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with fra-grant, magnolia-shaped, wine-red flowers – for sun or partial shade. I’m quite taken by the white petals of C. ‘Venus’ with its yellow and purple centre markings, flowering from May to September.

Popular with prairie-style planting (just as captivating when executed brilliantly in cottage or contemporary settings) is the coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. The pinky-purple, daisy-like petals make it easy to identify. Try E. purpurea ‘Magnus’, which doesn’t need staking, or the E. purpurea ‘White Swan’, or for its name alone, the slightly shorter, E. ‘Summer Cocktail’. Combine with grasses – try the wavy softness of Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ – great for a sunny spot and for bees and butterflies. Leave some seed heads on your coneflower to ripen for birds. For an easy-to-look-after, long-flowering (May to September) reliable climber, try the luxurious, velvety purple of Clematis x Jackmanii. Fantastic partnered with roses.

Vine weevils have been prevalent this summer so be vigilant. Best time to go hunting is at night. Mission! Grab that torch and search out the flightless adults among your shrubs. Take no prisoners: adult females do not need a partner + can lay up to 1,000 eggs = C-shaped grubs, which will happily munch away the roots of prized plants. Failing that, you can drench the roots in shop-bought nematodes; safe to humans, pets and wildlife.

It’s also time to start planting new trees and shrubs, and to lift and divide herbaceous perennials once flowering is finished. Continue to feed tomatoes, raise pumpkins and squashes off the ground, store onions and your early apples should be ripe! Whatever you do, embrace the coming of autumn!