Autumn colour, callicarpas and caterpillars

Autumn is the season of deep reds, oranges and vibrant yellows with feathery seed-heads and ripening berries, plus there’s plenty of less traditional colours around too

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ AGMTake Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ AGM for example; a lovely medium-sized shrub which drops its leaves during September to reveal an explosion of bright violet berries. There's also Ceratostigma such as C. willmottianum ‘Forest Blue’ AGM, a bushy shrub producing clusters of rich blue flowers at this time of year. And whilst for me, autumn is the season for shrubs, there’s plenty of colour to be had elsewhere.

Autumn perennials

Perennials like sedum and asters produce an abundance of flowers and are perfect for pollinators, whilst the vivid and contrasting leaf colours of heuchera are great for creating blocks of colour. On top of that there’s the feathery seed-heads of many perennial grasses such as Stipa gigantea and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Graziella’ which add both colour and texture to borders and look particularly dramatic adorned with a spider’s web and some morning dew.

Colourful autumn heucherasAll through the spring and summer, the team have been busy placing weekly orders to keep the Plant Centre at RHS Garden Harlow Carr looking topped-up and full of flowers. But with the beginning of autumn, our ordering patterns begin to shift towards evergreens and autumn and winter interest plants; from the delicate blooms of sarcococca and hellebores to the vibrant stems of cornus and salix and not forgetting favourites like skimmia, pieris and perennial cyclamen. And with new conifer and tree ranges, including autumn favourites like Liquidambar, we’re fuller than ever.

This time of year also brings us plenty of advice queries, with customers preparing to plant and prune. But the award for most interesting query this week goes to my colleague Ellis in the Gift Shop, who brought in some leaves from her oak tree covered in oak cherry galls. These red fruit-like growths on the underside of oak leaves are caused by a gall wasp, whose offspring develop inside them. Although they look alarming, they have little impact on the health of the tree.

Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillarAnd finally, he looks quite alarming too, but this gentle giant was spotted in the Plant Centre by one of our customers and identified as an Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar - really rather cute if you ask me!
More Info
Read more on autumn colour
Planting for autumn colour
Perennials for autumn colour
Visit spectacular autumn gardens

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