Autumn jobs in the garden


With Sally Cunis, Garden Designer

Suddenly it’s September again.

Rose Munstead Wood

The summer holidays are over, children are returning to school, students, including my youngest daughter, are heading off to University, the sapphire blue sky is full of chattering swifts and swallows preparing for their flight to warmer climes and it feels as if the end of the year is fast approaching.

As the tractors gather in the harvest, the seed heads pop, the grasses wave tall and golden and the garden is probably in need of some attention.

If we are lucky enough to have an Indian summer, hanging baskets and annuals will keep on blooming until the first frosts provided they are dead headed regularly, watered and fed. Even roses which were at their best in June may enjoy a second flush of flowers well into autumn.

Freshen up

Giving the garden a good tidy up, tying in new growth, cutting out old flowering stems, removing leaf litter, edging the lawn and keeping on top of a myriad of jobs in the garden prevents it from looking too tired and wistful at this time of year.

Whilst clearing up the garden, have a good look at neglected containers and pots. Tip out any dead and dying plants, cleaning the containers, perhaps cheering them up with a coat of paint if appropriate, replacing the old soil with a suitable planting medium finally grouping them together for greater impact.

Autumn colours

The strong colours of the tall perennials found in burnt oranges, yellows, reds, blues and purples are characteristic of this time of year. They look wonderful mixed in with prairie grasses of different hues. Use them to inject a splash of late summer colour in gaps which appear in the border or to brighten up the terrace.

Visit one of the wonderful local events such as Penistone Show in early September or the Harrogate Flower Show in mid September and see what is on offer. Choose from fabulous Campanula, Japanese anemone, Helenium, Aster and Dahlia adding them in drifts throughout the border to brighten up the shorter days.

Plan for next spring


Plan for next spring by planting up the containers with bulbs. A fabulous range of bulbs will be coming into the local nurseries and shows now which, for me, is a much more exciting retail experience than being let loose in a sweet shop!

Buy loose bulbs, if possible, in paper bags selecting them as if choosing onions discarding any that are soft or mouldy. Be tempted by jewel-coloured frilly parrot tulips, striking blue agapanthus, purple alliums and an amazing array of narcissi ranging from large scented blowsy forms to dainty miniature alpine gems.

Tulip Paul Scherer and Heuchera

Layer bulbs to make a ‘bulb lasagne’ in order to achieve a continuous succession of colour through the seasons, over planting perhaps with a small variegated ivy, pretty winter pansies and Fuchsia ‘Mrs Popple’ for immediate colour and effect.

In September last year, on his 90th birthday, I gave my lovely friend Derrick a large blue pot planted up with Tulip ‘Queen of the Night’ and daffodils over planted with Heuchera, Fuchsia and a variegated ivy. It sits outside his French windows giving all year colour and interest.

Many of the coloured grasses and evergreen shrubs will see you through the winter so select material for planters carefully, placing near entrance ways, focusing on scent and visual impact to banish those end-of-summer blues!

To see more of Sally’s work, visit her website


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