Tag Archives: dahlia

Planting Ideas for Colourful Autumn Borders

Dahlia 'Ruskin marigold'

Dahlia ‘Ruskin marigold’

We’re in September; schools have started and university looms; for some people it’s a chance to take a well–earned break away from the crowds; for others it brings an opportunity to spend more time in the garden and on the garden.

The following ideas are taken from a chapter in our newly published eBook “In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design”.

“A jewel-box autumn border with contrasts of flower and foliage is easy to plant and enjoy. Why not try some of these suggestions; you may have time to put them in and enjoy this season, but if not, then why not look out for some end of season bargains and snap them up ready for next year?”

Sedum 'purple emperor'

Sedum ‘purple emperor’

Sedum telephium ‘purple emperor’ has flat heads of ruby red flowers and chocolate purple foliage. The seed heads can be left on over winter; they’re very decorative when silvered with frost.

Ceratostigma wilmottianum is the 3 foot tall shrub, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides is the ground covering version. Both have rich, gentian-blue flowers and foliage which becomes redder as autumn progresses. Red and blue together on the same plant – maybe it’s a Crystal Palace Football Club fan?

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Cotinus coggygria ‘royal purple’ (‘smoke bush’) although deciduous, this bush keeps its red-purple foliage well into October; the leaves are sometimes flecked with shocking pink. Here it has yellow Solidago (Golden Rod) planted in front, which gives definition to the Solidago as it can sometimes be a bit straggly.

Cotinus coggygria ‘royal purple’ and Solidago (Golden Rod)

Cotinus coggygria ‘royal purple’ and Solidago (Golden Rod)

Dahlia ‘Ruskin marigold’ (above) is a really solid orange colour; like all dahlias it will keep flowering until the frosts blacken the foliage. Still with the red spectrum, Helianthemum ‘moorheim beauty’ has yellow/orange / bronze flowers that add depth to an autumn planting scheme (below)

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea has flat-petalled reddish pink daisy flowers which provide late season nectar for bees. For an architectural dimension Stipa gigantea (giant oats) is stunning against an autumn sky; the rustle of the grass adds sound and movement to a planting scheme.

stipa gigantea

stipa gigantea

And as a backdrop to all this floral exuberance, why not have Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)? Hopefully this has inspired you into planting an autumn border full of colourful flowers and bright foliage; we like to help! Drop us an email if you’d like to know more.

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

Helenium 'moorheim beauty'

Helenium ‘moorheim beauty’





Plants that tell the time


Mirabilis jalapa

Or should that be “Plants that tell the ‘thyme’”?

The Victorians loved their bedding plants, and parks and private gardens would have intricate designs made from flowers; including clocks and the royal coat of arms. But this blog isn’t about flowers displayed as a giant timepiece in your garden, although that would make an interesting change in a front garden.

In fact, in some ways it’s a misnomer, as all plants can tell the time; possibly better than many of us with our dependence on watches and mobiles for alarms to wake us up. Perhaps we should be using a dandelion clock? Not quite, blowing the seeds off a dandelion head is more accurate for increasing the spread of the dandelion than telling the correct time by the number of puffs it takes.

So when your dahlias start waking up an hour before the sun rises – everyday they’re in bloom, regular as clockwork – and you struggle with the snooze button…how do they do it? Quite clever really, there’s a pigment in the plant that reacts to the increase or decrease in the amount of daylight; well to be more precise, the lack of light or darkness of night. This enables plants to open their petals at sunrise and close them at sunset. It is also part of the system whereby plants live their lives; knowing when seeds need to germinate and when leaves should fall.

Some flowers are really accurate in their sun watching. Sunflowers track the course of the sun as it moves across the sky, turning those beautiful heavy heads of yellow to mirror the golden sun. There are many plants and flowers which seem to have a favourite time of day to open their blooms or close their leaves. A favourite of mine is the ‘Four o’clock plant’ or Mirabilis jalapa. This beauty has fragrant flowers in the evening, and can be grown as an annual or a tuberous perennial (like dahlias). It is a stunner at this time of year in particular, cheerfully throwing out petals of yellow, pink and cream all blending together on the same plant and even on the same flower.

Mirabilis jalapa also known as ‘Pride of Peru’ opens its flowers in the late afternoon – hence ‘four o’clock plant’. It was introduced into Britain around 1633 by John Tradescant the Younger and has been around ever since, although subject as many plants have been, to the vagaries of fashion. The Tradescants, father and son, were instrumental in discovering many plants from the Americas – the brave new world – and bringing them back to the homeland. As early plant hunters in the Americas, Russia and North Africa we owe many plants in our gardens to their discoveries. We also owe thanks to the gardeners and botanists who took the seeds and plants and grew or tried to grow these strange herbs and trees in their own gardens and estates.

The botanist John Gerard was said to have grown the ‘four o’clock plant’ in his London garden. However, this might have been a different member of the mirabilis family as Gerard died in 1612. Of course the Spanish had been to Mexico and Peru  in the late sixteenth century and could well have returned with some seeds, which, courtesy of Drake and the other English privateers of Elizabeth Tudor’s reign , could have found their way into English gardens.

One last note about those ‘Pride of Peru’ seeds: black and hard coated they are poisonous, so don’t mistake them for seeds of the onion family. Store them in a safe place and sprinkle around in spring and you will have your scented, colourful timepiece in the garden. As for thyme, planted with the ‘four o’clock plant’, it would add a decorative and evergreen contrast.

For planting ideas or a re-design of your garden, why not drop us an email to talk about it?