Autumn is the best time to design your garden.
You can still see the echoes of Summer planting and late Summer and Autumn growth is still often going strong. As the weather gets colder and as you clear away more and more of this year’s debris, the underlining lines and shapes of the garden reveal themselves.
We beg our own garden design clients to start the garden design process in the Autumn!
If you start now you can have all the time you need to spend the Autumn assessing what worked in the Summer, what is needed in the Spring and how you would like your garden to look over the long Winter months without worrying that you have too many tasks to do.
Also hard landscaping can be done over Winter and with planting in early Spring, you can have a revamped garden ready to burst into action by March and April.
Here are some ways to think about your garden.
Does your garden feel naturally well balanced, or are there blobs of planting that make it lopsided?
Does the patio look too small compared to the lawn or does the new shed stick out like a sore thumb?
Do the vertical sides of the garden look in proportion to the horizontal length? In a small garden normally this would be a 1-3 ratio.
Good proportions can be achieved by balancing the evergreen components of the planting, extending or reshaping paths and patios and bringing in feature trees to create a canopy affect rather than have all the planting at the same height.
Even a raised bed can follow the “Golden Mean” ratio system of the Greeks to give it natural proportions- 8 foot by 5 foot.
Paths and patios, small walls and raised beds can all give your garden a strong structural element which the planting can then soften over the season. You can also use hedges to divide up spaces, or trellis and lattices to create different levels. Does your garden look really good on a cold, grey Winter’s day? If yes the ‘bones’ of your garden are in good shape and with this strong structural element it is pretty hard to go wrong when it comes to planting.
As well as strong bones, rhythm is vital and it is often what most distinguishes an amateur garden from one that looks professionally designed. This can be achieved by repetitive planting in large swathes or interesting motives in walls and paths that are repeated. A garden can be thought of as a frozen piece of music in time, and we know how essential rhythm is in music.
Now is the time to look at your garden from different perspectives. Are your eyes and your body drawn to different areas of the garden? Focal points can draw you into a garden rather than just watching it from one perspective. Old gates, urns, sundials and water features can be placed to serve this function. It is better to have less of them and go for bigger, better quality products. Just think of gardens with too many pots or sculpture. you don’t know where to look and the whole garden looks like a jumble sale rather than a unique personal space that lures you deeper into its mysteries.
Plants like chrysanthemums and Asters, Dahlias and Ceratostigma flower well on to the beginnings of Winter. If you make regular visits to bursaries this month you will see the flowering stock of plants and know that next year you will have good performing plants. Some favourites of mine are Hydrangea and Japanese anemones which catch the Autumn light with their pale flowers lit up.
Colourful foliage is the obvious choice for Autumn. In terms of small trees you could look up Japanese Acer, Cornus kousa, the Spindle Tree, Genko, Cercis and well as Rhus and Amelanchier.
Seed heads, so beloved by English gardens since the turn of the Century create a lovely dark structural foil for the abundant yellows and orange of Autumn. The humble Chive, Circium, Echinops, Cornflowers and Phlomis and well as ornamental grasses such as Pampas, Stipa gigantia, Hakonechloa and Panicum all turn beautiful colours and catch the sun setting lower in the sky at this time of year.
Lastly this is the time for planting bulbs. Hopefully you have made notes last Spring about where more colour is needed. Please read last months article about different possibilities.
Where to go in November
Fancy choosing your own Xmas tree? Wilderness Woods in East Sussex offers you the chance to select your tree from their plantation, put a ribbon around it, then come back in December and chop it down. www.wildernesswood.org
Also West Dean’s famous Walled Kitchen Garden is a sight to behold with the abundance of the summer still on show, especially since this Autumn has been so warm.
by Andrew Staib, Principal Designer of Glorious Gardens www.gloriousgardenssussex.co.uk