What to plant in autumn

 In Garden Design, Landscaping

Keep your garden vibrant through the seasons by refreshing the planting from time to time. Here are some suggestions for what to plant in autumn.

As summer fades into autumn, do you feel as though your garden is lacking in something? Height? Structure? Privacy? Fragrance? Now is the time to refresh the planting so that your garden can continue to bring you joy all through the year. 

Autumn is the perfect time to establish perennial plants and trees. The soil is still warm and if we’re lucky, gentle autumn showers will encourage the roots to grow deep and strong over winter so that the plants can flourish next spring.

autum planting combination orange rudbeckia with grasses

Here’s my planting list for autumn

  • Bare root hedging
  • Trees for structure
  • Turf or grass seed
  • Pots and planters
  • Spring flowering bulbs
  • Wallflowers and Sweet Williams

Bare root hedging

Hedges are awesome.  Don’t think of them just as boundary markers – they are garden screens, perfect for hiding the wheelie bins, creating secret arbours and providing a barrier against loud noises and cruel breezes.

During autumn and winter, it’s possible to buy bare root hedging plants.  These are dormant plants that are lifted from their nursery field and had their roots washed clean.  Why? Well, first of all that saves transporting plastic pots and heavy soil around the country.  Bare root plants are incredibly eco friendly and much kinder to your pocket.

Planting a bare root hedge is nowhere near as labour intensive as lifting, positioning and digging holes for potted plants.  All you need to do is mark out the position of the hedge. Dig a trench, line it with rich compost, position your plants and back fill.  If rabbits or deer visit your garden on a regular basis, you might also want to add a stem protector so that your young hedge doesn’t get nibbled.  Add a thick layer of mulch, keep the plants well watered and you’ll have a stunning hedge in next to no time. 

Discover more about the wide variety of bare root hedging available to gardeners in the UK.  

newly turfed circular lawn with stripes

Laying turf in autumn

I love to see a beautiful lawn. It’s the perfect play area for children and pets and it creates a sense of space.  Any artist or designer will tell you that space in between features is as important as the features themselves.  Even the spacing between paragraphs in this blog is there to help you digest the content!

Lawn turf, can of course be laid at any time of year, but given the choice, I will always lay new turf or sow grass seed in autumn.  It’s all too tempting to start using a new lawn almost as soon as it looks green, but those delicate roots really do benefit from being left untrampled for as long as possible.  When you create a new lawn in autumn, winter weather will make it easier for you to keep off the lawn while it gets really well established.

Spring flowering bulbs

spring flowering bulbs in full bloom after being planted the previous autumn

Give yourself something to look forward to in the new year by planting spring flowering bulbs during September and October. 

There is a huge array to choose from.  Before you get tempted to buy bulbs on impulse, sit yourself down with a big notepad and some bulb catalogues (you can find them online) and make yourself a planting plan.

What colours appeal to you most? How tall do you need your flowers to be? How can you mix and match species and varieties to get the longest possible display? Most importantly of all – have fun with it!

Biannual plants

Annual plants are those that complete their lifecycle within 12 months.  Poppies, cornflowers, sunflowers and cosmos are typical annuals. They are usually sown in early spring for flowering the same summer.

The lifecycle of biannual plants straddles two years.  Young plants appear in the garden centres and online around September and October.  Plant them where you want them to flower. They will overwinter and then give you the most delicious display in around May or June the next year.  My favourites include Wallflowers and Sweet Williams for their delicious scent.  You could also try Honesty – a favourite with orange tip butterflies, or Digitalis – the stately (and very bee friendly) foxglove.

Pots and Planters

Pots and planters allow you to have a lot of fun with plants. Mix shrubs, perennials, annuals, ornamental grasses and bulbs for vibrant displays that you can change with the seasons.

When you get bored with the display, or the plants get past their best, you can move the pot to somewhere less prominent and replace it with something more exciting.  

Tender plants in pots can be overwintered in a frost free place and displayed again in spring. Bulb displays can be left to rest and regenerate through the summer and re-introduced to the garden when they perk up.  In fact you can have an ever changing display by regularly swapping around and refreshing your container garden.

Why not plant a halloween themed display for your doorstep? 

You’ll find more autumn gardening ideas in these articles

Gardening jobs for autumn. 

Using water in garden design.

Getting best value from your trip to the garden centre.


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