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In autumn, many things in the garden can be tidied away, cut back and neatened. Or can they - does thismean it's all over for the year? Do we need to see bare soil and pruned back stems?
A few decades ago, this was the aspiration but now it's just not the thing to do. Garden minibeasts and birds love to scratch around and feast upon the stems and seeds that autumn brings. There's so much happening outdoors in October and beyond. It would be a shame to miss it. There is sometimes even an Indian summer which can be one of the best times of year. We Brits are often prepared to let the glory of autumn slip away without even a glance.
What's looking great in October?
Take Asters, for example (above). They are just peaking, so we should learn something from them about colour and contrast. On a grey, cloudy day the vibrant purples, mauves and deep magenta pinks of Michaelmas daisies stand out like blazing fires on bonfire night. During mild autumn weather, Asters are smothered in bees, hoverflies and even butterflies. They provide vital fodder which could make the difference between life and death for small creatures.
Jack Frost smothers them with his shivering mantle. Did you know there are over 500 different varieties of Salvia? You'll find that they are still flowering their socks off, with tall flower spires of deep blue, purple and even pinks and reds during October. Vertical accent and colour in October, what more could you wish for? They'll go on and on until
Hydrangeas are another glory of the autumn season. Dozens of different types, each with their own distinctive flowers in varying tints of pinks, reds, blues and even white. They continue to flower for weeks, then stand proudly through the winter, giving structure and form and reminding us of their flowering, seasonal glory.
The vibrant yellows of tall, stately wonders including Rudbeckia, Helenium and Helianthus can often keep going right through autumn, making the season sparkle. Who would want to miss the swathes of gold swaying in the October breeze?
Lower level stars
Beneath all these stately wonders are ground covering glorious marvels including hardy geraniums such as G. Rozanne with its vibrant blue blooms. Then there are smaller, apparently delicate yet profuse, daisy flowers of the aptly named Erigeron Profusion (pictured below), which aren't actually delicate at all!
These, and many more, valuable low-growing perennials will keep flowering for months on end. Many gardeners find October to be their most rewarding month of the year as the muted light makes for brilliant colours.
The berry best of the season
Its not only flowers that bring a touch of sheer magic to autumn. Berries are just as awe-inspiring. Callicarpa Profusion (pictured below) has the most amazing purple spheres of seasonal warmth. The berries stay on bare branches once leaves have fallen and this shrub is then at its very best throughout the season until birds enjoy a purple feast of kings.
Look in the hedgerows and you will find even more to rejoice about! Viburnum opulus, (pictured below), is commonly known as the guelder rose tree. It is clothed in luscious red berries in autumn and bears testament to the beauty of nature during autumn mists when it shines like a beacon.
Then there are Hawthorn trees which are smothered in red berries during the mellow months of the year. Especially if there has been dry, warm weather during summer, followed by a mild start to autumn. Some suggest this show of luscious berries can be a prediction of snow to come in winter.
Whatever the forecast for the months to come, never forget to enjoy the great outdoors in autumn, and even in winter. These seasons can offer garden brilliance in their own right.