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Autumn Gardening at Hestercombe with Claire Greenslade

Head Gardener Claire keeping the ‘red hot pokers’ tidy (but not too tidy)

Head Gardener, Claire Greenslade gives some top tips on autumn gardening.

Now autumn has truly arrived there’s no need to down tools and hide until spring. We’re lucky in Somerset because we get to hold on to the warmer temperatures for longer and thanks to plant availability we are able to extend the season. The trend for prairie-style planting, championed by designers like Piet Oudolf, has bought a new use for perennials. Late flowering, rich tones of herbaceous perennials such as Echinacea and Rudbeckia can keep us in flower right up to late October and into early November. And if we plan really carefully we can use their seeds heads to maintain interest, structure and an important food source for birds right up until February.

At home you can try perennials such as Persicaria, Filipendula, Monarda, Helenium, Gaura, Japanese anemone and Salvias mixed into your borders for height and colour. Ceratostigma plumbaginoides creates stunning blue flowered ground cover, and Sedums keep attracting all the late insects and butterflies.

Clematis tangutica showing that autumn colour isn’t all about the trees

Here, the nooks and crannies are smothered in a sprinkling of Erigeron karvinskianus, a tiny daisy that flowers from May to November with no attention whatsoever. Once it has gone to seed we cut it back hard ready for the fresh growth in the spring. Gertrude Jekyll added blue Echinops, silver Eryngiums, and purple asters into the borders at Hestercombe. During September and early October autumn gardening these are full of butterflies and bees getting their last tastes of nectar. Some of the more exotic plants also help to maintain interest until the frosts come. Try Cannas, Kniphofia (red hot pokers), Hedychium (the ginger lilies) and Crocosmia, in all their hot colours.

Autumn Gardening: don’t be too tidy!

Try not to be too tidy at this time of year. It’s worth leaving some foliage for the wildlife. We leave the seed heads of the Eryngium gigantean as they turn a lovely warm brown colour and stay upright adding structure. Finches like to feed on these. We also leave Japanese anemones for their architectural seed heads, and Nigella (love in a mist) is great for seeds. Poppies and Teasels are great for attracting the birds, and leave sunflower heads for the seeds.

At this time of year we leave the roses to develop hips. We have Rosa pimpinellifolia on one of the rills and it produces huge

Vines on the pergola provide autumn interest

black hips. Next to it is Rosa virginiana with lots of small orangey red hips, and the rugosa roses in the rose garden have the biggest red hips that glisten in the dewy sunshine. On the pergola at Hestercombe we grow a few climbers that have fantastic foliage colour from August onwards such as Parthenocissus and the vines, Vitis purpurea and Vitis coignetiae. If we are lucky enough to have a late flush of climbing roses, these look so good together.

So autumn doesn’t mean the end for your garden – instead enjoy the intense bursts of red, orange and yellow, and spend time in the autumn gardening – albeit wrapped up in your scarf and gloves!

Head to our Plant Centre & Gift Shop sale from 13 October to pick up some amazing bargains for your garden!