Home Places to visit Colourful autumn planting: get the most from perennials

Colourful autumn planting: get the most from perennials

The 'hot' end of the herbaceous border, Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The 'hot' end of the herbaceous border, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ herbaceous borders show how it’s done

If you have a garden problem, such as your flower beds and pots running out of steam by the end of August, take a look at how the experts handle it.

Instead of clearing your beds and shutting up shop, enjoy flowers right until the first frosts with the right choices, as my visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens shows.

It’s a lovely garden in Edgbaston, with several impressive glasshouses (find the Tropical House here and the Subtropical House here).

I was struck by what a happy place it was, filled with families and people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying the fresh air on a lovely Sunday.

Extreme weather

I wanted to see how their gardeners had handled the extreme weather conditions this year – snow and ice, then heat and drought. It appears they dealt with it all pretty well!

The border is on the West Lawn, protected from the east wind by the Pinetum and backed by a low stone wall. This sheltered site mean plants bloom early and have long flowering periods.

It is cut in two by stone stairs and like most these days, isn’t just made up of herbaceous perennials (plants that come back every year, as my mother says).

Succession of blooms

Early season blooms include blue and red Pulmonaria and purple and pink geraniums, Alliums and Delphiniums, giving way to Salvia, Achillea and Crocosmia.

By mid-September, Phlox, Penstemon, Helenium, Echinacea, Anenome huphensis and Sedum spectabile were fighting it out for prominence with a host of sunflowers.

There was a colourful palette, with white at one end morphing into hotter colours – a delightful use of plants and all pretty easy to grow.

Importance of foliage

Foliage colour played an important part, with Artemisia Powis Castle’s grey-white mounds winding through the beds and the almost black Ligularia Othello contrasting with asters.

Phormiums and Euphorbias, along with the trees of the Pinetum provide evergreen interest throughout the year.

The gardens are a lovely place to visit at any time – for more information, visit www.birminghambotanicalgardens.org.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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