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MINTER: Grey, wet autumn is here, which means it’s time for some colour
OK, we’ve had heavy rain pounding down the last of our summer garden colour, so now what?
We all need a little colour boost when the days get cooler, darker and much wetter. Fall is a time to celebrate colour but it’s a season quite different from spring and summer. Fall colour needs to be used strategically and requires a little forethought.
Colour pockets in key locations are the answer. You also need to use the combined synergy of plants in a way that pops. The plants you select must be weather tolerant, frost hardy over-achievers. Vibrant colours are essential because blues and greens are lost on dark days. I love to use combinations that include evergreen shrubs, hardy colourful grasses and kales, perennials that are attractive even when not in flower and bright yellow orange and white violas and pansies. These combos can be used to create bright and cheery ground beds or porch pots.
One of my favourite groupings is surrounding ‘Silver King’ eyuonymus with the short tufty yellow and green stripped grass called Acorus ‘Ogon’. Add in a few bicolour blue and yellow pansies, like ‘Morpheus’ and you’ve got a winner. I’m also a huge fan of the golden orange balls of Rheingold cedar and I like to combine it in a pot with three Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, which have gold and green leaves, pop in a few Carex ‘Evergold’ grasses for good measure and then smother it with purple and soft yellow pansies.
Ornamental kale is fabulous at this time of year, tolerating wet weather nicely but you need to know three things about them. First, the colour: the whites and pinks show up best in dark weather. Secondly: open form kales, like the ‘Peacock’ variety, shed water more easily and tend not to rot like some of the tighter, fuller head varieties that collect and hold water. Younger kale plants of all types are usually more open. Thirdly: if we have a severe winter (temperatures below -10°C for a few days), most kale varieties will tend to freeze out unless they are protected with N-Sulate cloth. The very hardy Siberian kale, like ‘Red Bor’ and ‘Winter Bor’, will tolerate severe cold and keep on performing all winter. If you’re using kale for a colour pop, accessorize them with dusty miller, bright ‘Evergold’ carex grass and vibrantly coloured pansies and violas.
Speaking of winter pansies, the smaller flowered varieties, like the ‘Matrix’ series are far more weather tolerant than the larger varieties. Violas are, perhaps, the toughest of all, taking quite severe cold in their stride. When we get a cold spell (-5°C or lower) both pansies and violas tend to quit flowering and remain in a holding pattern until the middle to end of February when temperatures begin to warm up and the hours of daylight are longer. The huge advantage of planting them now is their ability to pour out colour from late winter well into late spring. With our current weather trends, that’s a huge bonus.
A few early bulbs, like crocus, grape hyacinths, Spanish scillas and early daffodils, like ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, popped in among your colour pockets, will really make them come alive in later winter and will create an exquisite show.
Don’t let this opportunity to create fall, winter and spring colour slip by.