Late summer is in full swing. With the slow hum of bees, overflowing beds full of late flowerings and even second flowerings, it’s easy to sit back and think it could all last forever (and how wonderful that would be). Autumn is just around the corner though… but rather than bemoan its arrival, we choose to celebrate it here at Dig. Every season has its own magic in the garden, and autumn is no exception – which is why we’re sharing some advice from our garden designer Fabienne on creating and preparing some autumn interest for your garden to ensure that it continues to give you pleasure and activity all year round.
Things might slow down once summer is over, but don’t worry – autumn interest can be created in various ways. From bulbs, to leaf colour, to berries and, if you’re looking really closely, even stem colour. Here are some suggestions for plants, ranging from trees to bulbs that you can use to create Autumn interest in your garden. Some of these plants feature in our Instant Bed themes, and some of them are usually reserved for our Bespoke Designs. You might already have a Dig garden, and the plants below will each work with at least one of our themes. If you don’t have a Dig garden then I hope they can act simply as inspiration. If you’re thinking about adding some additional interest to your space, but aren’t sure what to choose, just get in touch!
For bold structure, beautiful leafy displays and all important shade, you can’t go wrong with a tree – and picking the right one for your space can give you years of pleasure.
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is a multi-stemmed tree with purple, heart-shaped leaves. These beautiful trees’ leaves turn a dramatic yellow in autumn.
Suitable for full sun or partial shade; any soil type; well drained soil
Amelanchier lamarckii has year-round interest and is perfect for small gardens. In autumn this wonderful tree provides a beautiful display of yellowish green leaves that slowly change to scarlet through crimson.
Suitable for full sun or partial shade; clay/loam/sand; moist but well drained or well drained soil. Perfect for our Classic theme in sun.
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’ is a sublime tree for vibrant autumn colour. With its star shaped foliage, and autumn leaves that turn to yellow and orange, before transforming into a final vibrant red, this is a winner for autumnal interest. This tree can grow quite large, and so we only advise this if you have sufficient room.
Suitable for full sun or partial shade; clay/loam/sand; moist but well-drained or well-drained soil. Perfect for our Classic theme in either sun or shade.
#DigTopTip - If you place a tree where the sun backlights it, you’ll create an impressive display with the sun gleaming through the leaves - accentuating colours, shapes and creating dappled shadows across your garden.
Shrubs provide excellent structure in most garden bed displays – we always include them in our themes to tie everything together. Here are some that work excellently all year round.
Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ produces large clusters of striking and unusual purple berries in mid-autumn and its leaves will also change to golden purple. Trust us, once you’ve seen one of these in full berry-bloom, you won’t forget it.
Suitable for full sun or partial shade; any soil type; well-drained soil. With its striking purple berries, its a perfect addition to our Jungle theme.
Many Hydrangeas have an interesting change of leaf colour in autumn. Hydrangea quercifolia has beautiful lobed leaves that turn a deep red in autumn, following its panicles of white florets. Perfect for interest through late-summer into the cooler months.
Suitable for full sun or partial shade; clay/loam/sand; moist but well-drained or well-drained soil. Perfect for our Classic theme in sun.
Acers are known for their specular autumn displays of colour and so you can’t go wrong with any of them really. Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’ particularly though, which is a shrub form of Acer, produces beautiful red leaves in autumn that can light up a corner with their flaming glow.
Suitable for full sun or partial shade; any soil type; moist but well-drained soil. Perfect for our Classic theme in shade.
Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ maintains interesting stem colour throughout the entire year, but in the autumn and winter this is especially noticeable. In autumn, the leaves turn reddish before dropping off and revealing the stems in winter. Bluish-white berries also appear in autumn for an extra pop of interest.
Suitable for full sun or partial shade; clay/loam/sand; moist but well-drained or well-drained soil. Perfect for both The Med and The Classic in either sun or shade.
Plants that come back year after year, meaning that, if you look after them, you can rely on these pops of colour to return time and time again.
Salvia ‘Silas Dyson’ produces purple flowers in summer which last all the way until the end of autumn. The colour of the flowers themselves changes, beginning as rich crimson, before turning to deep reddish-pink.
Suitable for full sun; chalk/loam/sand soil; moist but well-drained/well-drained soil. Great for The Cottage, or even The Jungle for a pop of purple vibrance.
Iris foetidissima is evergreen, but in autumn, its small yellow flowers turn into pods which open to reveal bright orange seeds. These will remain happily through winter until spring.
Suitable for full sun, partial shade or full shade; any soil type; moist but well-drained or well-drained soil. Ideal for The Jungle in sun or shade.
Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’ is a reliable, evergreen perennial. In autumn it produces small violet-purple flowers in dense, erect spikes hovering atop the dark-green arching leaves that remain all year round. Black berries too follow in late autumn and winter on this amazing plant that just keeps giving.
Suitable for full shade or partial shade; clay/loam/sand; moist but well-drained soil. A perfect partner for The Jungle in shade.
Remember too that leaf colour can be overlooked when maintaining interest in the garden. It’s a good thing to think about as it can create what I like to call a ‘seasonal handover’. Heuchera ‘Madison Bride’ (which we include in Classic theme in sun), Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ (a favourite in our Med theme in sun) alongside Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ will have finished flowering, but their leaves remain, carrying through interest until the next flowering in spring and summer the following year.
Bulbs can be planted now (July & August) for them to appear in Autumn. Autumnal bulbs are a straightforward and non-expensive way to create seasonal interest. A great thing about bulbs is that so often we plant them and then forget about them, meaning a beautiful surprise when they emerge without you really needing to think about it.
Cyclamen hederifolium is a hardy bulb, with pink flowers which are at certain points also beautifully fragrant.
Suitable for partial shade; any soil type; well-drained soil. Ideal for The Cottage or The Classic.
Crocus speciosus ‘Albus’ flowers from September to November, producing white, goblet shaped flowers followed by narrow green leaves. If you prefer a purple flower Crocus speciosus has the same form but flowers purple.
Suitable for full sun; any soil type; well-drained soil. A perfect partner for The Med.
Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ produces double flowers with pink-purple petals. A more unusual flower, it has the appearance of a little water lily (hence the name) with leaves that appear after the flowering which lasts until mid-summer.
Suitable for full sun; any soil type; well-drained soil. A nice pairing with The Jungle in sun.
These are just some suggestions for bringing seasonal interest into your garden once summer is out of the way, but gardening is all about beautiful experimentation. If you have any wild ideas about what you’d like to add to your Dig garden, and even need assistance sourcing anything, just drop us a line at email@example.com