Summer’s Fiery Finale

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Coming out of the tube station after work tonight it was already getting dark. It was just 7.30pm, a sure sign that summer is over and autumn is upon us. I live for summer, so struggle to come to terms with the shortening days and the prospect of winter. But it’s far from over in the garden, with many tender bulbs and perennials now reaching their zenith. Early autumn is defined by flowers from the warm side of the colour spectrum – reds, golden yellows, burnt oranges, russets, plums and purples – all enhanced by the lowering light. Even the heleniums above, drenched by rain, manage to radiate heat.

To mark the passing of summer, a few of my favourite hot-coloured, autumn flowering plants:

Buddleja x weyeriana “Bicolor” – a shrub with incredible kaleidoscopic flowers that open rosy purple and fade to a soft orange, attracting bees and butterflies as they go. It would look amazing in a colour-themed border alongside orange and purple dahlias, Verbena bonariensis, Echinacea, and autumn flowering Michaelmas daisies such as Aster x frikartii “Monch”.

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Dahlias, deservedly back in fashion, are stars in the garden from late summer until the first frosts, which turn them into a soggy black mush. Those that have survived ambush by this year’s army of slugs and snails are worthy of appreciation! I particularly like the colouring of this waterlily-type Dahlia which fades from warm pink into yellow.

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Trusty Crocosmia can always be relied upon for an autumn firework display. In Cornwall it runs riot through hedgerows, lacing them with sparks of bright orange. Here, spangled with water droplets at The Garden House, they bring light and colour to the base of a shady wall. Too much shade and Crocosmia will fail to flower, so let them get their heads into the sun.

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And providing a gorgeous contrast to all these flame coloured beauties, Eucomis comosa “Sparking Burgundy”, a stately, exotic bulb that loves the camera. It will cope with growing in a pot and the flowers last for 6 weeks or more. It’s on my shopping list for next year, where I hope will add a touch of sophistication to the group of containers at the foot of our steps. Impossible to resist.

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Perhaps the prospect of a mellow autumn is not so bad after all…..