Act now to boost autumn colour

November 2nd, 2016 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Check autumn colour before working out planting schemes

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Gardening with Joyce Russell

Gardening with Joyce Russell

I am watching the breeze blow leaves from a large ash tree as I write this. It isn’t a stripping wind, where all the leaves seem to disappear in a few hours, but none-the-less, the fall is obvious. 

Some trees drop leaves earlier than others of course, and this ash will be bare long before its hazel neighbours. Some trees and shrubs turn to more colourful autumn shades than others too and at this time of year they can make a spectacular display in the garden. The time of leaf fall varies a little each year. I’ve known some where gales have stripped most leaves by the end of October. In a calmer year the leaves drift and are likely to fall throughout November.  

Colour schemes

If you intend to add new trees or shrubs to the garden, in order to boost autumn colour, then it is well worth visiting garden centres now. 

Check out the colours for planting schemes and try to avoid clashes between trees with bright coloured leaves. 

It’s also worth thinking about the colour of the leaves against any paintwork on the house. It’s all a matter of what makes you happy of course, but some colours enhance one another while others just don’t have the same effect.

And if you have already planted a tree or shrub in the wrong place, then don’t despair: it is easy enough to move one that was planted a year or two ago. Do this in the winter when the tree is dormant and be sure to lift as much of the root structure as you can. 

It is much better to do this than to continue to regret the planting place. I have a stunning maple that was moved twice, in successive years, before it found the best place for it to grow.


Fresh herbs are a delight in the winter and supermarkets do a good trade in small pots of plants. These are usually crammed with many plants and don’t last long. If you empty the pot you will see just how the compost is packed with roots. 

You may have raised your own plants and have a plentiful supply of parsley growing outdoors, but if not, you can try splitting up the rootball of one of those kitchen herb pots. Grow each plant on in an 8cm pot of good compost on a cool windowledge. Choose the ones that look strongest in three weeks time and move them on into larger containers, or the border soil. Plants will grow well in a greenhouse, polytunnel or conservatory and you should get plenty of pickings over the next six or seven months. If planted outdoors they will grow a little slower. Place pots against a house wall so they can benefit from a bit of retained heat.

Greenhouse goodies

It has been a good year for late summer crops in the polytunnel. My tomatoes are still producing plenty of ripe fruits and there is no need just yet to think about lifting plants. I have made sauce and bottled jars of dried fruits and there are plenty of whole tomatoes in the freezer that are waiting for future culinary use. 

Peppers are ripening still and will continue to do so for a few weeks until we get the first really cold spell. Courgette plants look so tatty however, that I think it is time to remove plants and accept the end of this crop until next year.

The decision of when to clear plants, and when to leave them to produce a few last treats at the risk of increasing risk of disease, is always a tricky one. I tend to remove and resow with something new: looking at diseased or struggling plants is never good for the soul.


Time to plant:

Over-wintered garlic can be planted right up until the shortest day of the year. Take a break after that and plant spring varieties in March.

Autumn sowing varieties of broad bean can be sown now. Choose Aquadulce Claudia for hardy and productive plants with tasty beans. The Sutton makes shorter plants for small gardens. Super Aquadulce is about the hardiest variety.

Sow round seeded pea varieties such as Meteor, First Early May and Douce Provence, for the earliest pods of peas next year. Try Oregon Sugar Pod, Herald or Kennedy for mangetout pods.

Peas and beans do best with a little protection through the winter months. Grow rows in a polytunnel or greenhouse, or cover outdoor rows with a cloche. For the most reliable germination, start seed off in pots and only plant out when a few inches tall.

If you grow a few extra plants then you will always have plenty to fill any gaps in a row.

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