Autumn is the season where I start to get a bit twitchy, knowing that months of cold, damp weather aren’t far away as we head towards winter. Certain plants, especially in a garden that you are very familiar with, seem to signify exact times in the season and further remind you of what is just around the corner.
One such plant is the brilliantly vibrant Vitis coignetiae, a plant that you just can’t help but look and stare at, due to its amazing ability to put on one of the best autumn shows of the season. We have two specimens at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, both impressive, but grown in very different ways.
The younger of the two has been in the garden for just over ten years and is trained on a wire system to a wall in the newly named Lakeside Gardens. This plant now has a spread of about 6m (19ft), but could be pruned to fit a smaller space. As this Vitis is along a path, you can get right up close to it and really appreciate the depth of shade and colour ranging from purple and scarlet to pastel tones. Due to its location on a hot, sunny wall the colours start to develop from August and last until the leaves drop in late autumn.
The second specimen is thought to have been planted around 1965, making it 50 years old this year. Although it was originally planted to drape over an old iron railing near the streamside, it has now grown to such proportions as to cover the canopy of a mature oak, bridging the gap into a Metasequoia and making its way into the Taxodium next to it. Despite its huge size, for the best part of the year it goes unnoticed as it is so high up. However, as it changes to bright red (which is always later than the other plant) and becomes more visible, it becomes the most talked about plant in the garden, and certainly the most frequently asked question as to what it is.
They produce such an impressive show that I have had to get one for my own garden, planted this year to cover the front of my house, I’m very interested to see how it develops over the coming years. Mine is in shade until late afternoon so I’m guessing it will have larger, lusher foliage which will begin to change colour later than the ones at Harlow Carr, and most likely paler pinks and lemon shades, but just as dramatic and impressive.
Events at RHS Garden Harlow Carr