...Indeed there is nothing more satisfying at this time of year than going for a brisk walk on a clear day and admiring the views around the garden. As we've had a mild autumn with few frosts many shrubs and trees are hanging onto their leaves longer than normal, providing an extra splash of colour.
At RHS Garden Hyde Hall sculptural trees around the pond are well worth looking out for, both the swamp cypress (Taxodium) and dawn redwood (Metasequoia) turn a beautiful shade of orange at this time of year before their leaves fade to brown and drop. Many visitors ask if these trees are dying, but although they're both conifers, they are unusual as they are deciduous – most conifers are evergreen and hold their foliage through the year.
The swamp cypress enjoys growing in moist soil and can be found on the island at the Lower Pond with its roots dipped in the water. Even when it does drop its leaves its characteristic ‘knees’ are always a talking point as they are so striking. These odd looking nodules are aerial roots and they are an adaptation this tree has made to growing in wet conditions.
Scarlet shades add a much needed splash of colour at this time of year around the garden and one of the best shrubs for producing good autumn colour is Euonymus carnosus ‘Red Wine’. As the name implies, its leaves turn a fantastic shade of red – akin to a good red wine – and it is a great shrub to use in a mixed border.
As well as foliage colour, shrubs that produce berries always look great as autumn turns to winter. Hyde Hall holds a good collection of viburnums and a great species for autumn interest is Viburnum betulifolium, which produces large clusters of glistening bright red berries, and Viburnum x hillieri ‘Winton’, which has fragrant flowers in the summer and masses of berries as the season ends which gradually darken.
As well as autumn shades there is also a lot of textural interest in the garden at this time of year. One of the last grasses to come into flower is the Pampas grass which produces its dense, bright creamy-white plumes in early autumn and holds onto these into early winter. One of the best varieties is Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’; although this will still make a large plant, it is shorter and stouter than the regular species and will stand up to the weather much better and retain its plumes through winter. Cortaderia is a very adaptable grass and we have plants thriving in the Dry Garden amongst the Mediterranean rocks, as well as at the Lower Pond where they grow in clay soil.
Other varieties to look out for that have slightly different shaped plumes include C. richardii which has loose plumes and C. selloana ‘Rendatleri’, which has purplish pink plumes and these will all provide brilliant colour and texture in any border through the autumn and winter period.