Gardens for late-season crescendo

Gardens don't have to lose their lustre as summer turns to autumn - be inspired by these Partner Gardens, renowned for their late season interest

The days may be shortening, and autumn drawing closer, but for some gardens the best is yet to come. We look at six Partner Gardens where outstanding displays of late-flowering perennials, ornamental grasses and fruit ensure a late-season visit is time well spent.

Mill End plantings at Knoll GardensKnoll Gardens, Dorset

Taking its inspiration from the natural world, Knoll Gardens' relaxed planting style mimics nature, building on the way plants co-exist in wild habitats to create a garden that is both beautiful for people and beneficial for wildlife. As summer turns to autumn, the Gravel Garden's tapestry of Stipa, Aster and Gaura merges seamlessly into the recently extended Dragon Garden, and the honey brown stems and flowers of Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea 'Poul Petersen' hold centre stage amongst the Mill End plantings. You'll find plenty of ideas on how to create thriving plant communities that give maximum impact for little maintenance.
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Plantings at Sussex Prairie GardenSussex Prairie Garden, West Sussex

This exciting 3.2ha (8 acres) prairie garden has a well-deserved reputation for being a late-season destination. In September, the imposing grasses are reaching a peak, with some growing to 5m tall. 'Visitors can follow the winding paths and vanish among a jungle of grasses and asters,' says co-owner Paul McBride. Some 30 different asters give bursts of colour alongside impressive drifts of unusual ornamental grasses, Veronicastrum, Echinacea and more, all combined in impressive architectural drifts. Among owner Paul and Pauline McBride’s most cherished early autumn plants is Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii, with its bright yellow, black-eyed daisies.
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Chrysanthemums at Hill CloseHill Close, Warwickshire

This collection of restored Victorian leisure gardens is well worth a late season visit.  Large collections of asters (more than 40 cultivars) keep the colour going, and you can admire the many hardy border Chrysanthemums which form part of the dispersed National Plant Collection; visit on 28 October for a special Chrysanthemum Open Day. The gardens are also home to more than 60 heritage apple and pear cultivars - the season culminates in an Apple Day and Country Fair on 15 October, with harvest displays, stalls and children's workshops. 
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The walled garden at Kelmarsh Hall. Image: Sarah VivienneKelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire

‘For sheer flower power, there is nothing to beat dahlias,’ says Head Gardener Joshua Coyne. The triangular walled kitchen garden is home to a vibrant collection of these late-season favourites - compare the huge variation in flower colour, size and shape, and see some of the new American-bred cultivars added in recent years to honour former owner Nancy Lancaster's American roots.  The annual Dahlia Festival (3 & 17 Sept 2017) features dahlia talks and clinics, garden tours, flower arranging demonstrations and more (note free RHS member entry does not apply during the Dahlia Festival). 
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Asters at Waterperry GardensWaterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

Waterperry's 60m purely herbaceous border remains brilliantly colourful until the first frosts in late October or early November. As summer shifts to autumn, the border reaches its third and final flush, exploding with colour from a large collection of old-fashioned Michaelmas daises, Solidago (goldenrod) and Helenium. You can find a large range of Waterperry-grown aster cultivars on sale in the plant centre. The 2ha (5 acres) orchards grow around 50 different apples - these take centre stage during the annual Apple Weekend (6-8 October 2017) when you can sample fruit, get advice and have your mystery apples identified.
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Scampston Hall grassesScampston Walled Garden, North Yorkshire

Nestled within the walls of the old kitchen gardens at Scampston Hall lies an outstanding contemporary garden, designed by renowned Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf. Late-season visitors are rewarded by the toffee apple scent of the Cercidiphyllum leaves in the Katsura Grove, and by the Drifts of Grass Garden, where the striking swathes of amber-tipped Molinia last well into autumn. 'In autumn, the grasses in the garden are quite spectacular,' says Head Gardener Paul Smith.  The naturalistic Perennial Meadow includes many unusual species and has been planted for a long season of interest, with the form of each plant, leaf and flower head carefully considered for a striking effect.
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Keep the colour going

Looking for ideas on how to keep your own garden looking bright as long as possible? Join the Late season showstopping perennials walk at RHS Garden Rosemoor for inspiration and advice.

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