Stars of the autumn garden

Four garden-worthy plants, taken from some of our RHS Partner Gardens, to keep the autumn colour going

As winter draws closer, plants that bring colour to the garden are particularly welcome. Extend the season, and inject some vibrancy into your November garden with these recommendations from RHS Partner Garden owners and Head Gardeners.

Narcissus Cedric Morris

Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’

This miniature lemon yellow Narcissus is a dainty addition to the late autumn / early winter garden. For us it flowers from late October through to March. We have about nine clumps, reaching about 1ft high, and they never let us down. Remarkably, they even managed a good show after the brutal winter of 2010/11.

We grow 'Cedric Morris' at the base of an old stump in the wooded Bishop Rudd's Walk. The best piece of advice we can give is to leave it alone and make sure other plants don’t outcompete it.

It is a tricky plant to find companions for due to its flowering time, but it is a good idea to keep choice woodlanders like Cypripedium or Shortia nearby as they will not be too competitive. One good flowering companion is Cyclamen as they are often in flower at the same time with us, especially in a mild winter.

 - Joseph Atkin, Head Gardener, Aberglasney Gardens, Carmarthenshire
More about Aberglasney Gardens

Acer palmatum Osakazuki

Acer palmatum (Amoenum Group) 'Osakazuki'

In our Rock and Water Garden and Heather Garden, we have the most beautiful Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'. It holds on to its leaves longer than some other Acers - in early autumn the leaves are still green, but with beautiful red seeds which make a striking contrast. Later, it has fantastic autumn colour, turning brilliant orange-scarlet.

It is best grown in a sheltered position away from strong winds. It will grow into a large shrub or small tree but can be easily grown in a large pot. In winter it continues to be an asset in the garden thanks to its wonderful form.

- Ian Smith, Plant Centre Manager, Compton Acres, Dorset
More about Compton Acres

Aster trinervius var. harae

Aster trinervius var. harae

This is the latest flowering aster, producing masses of dainty, dark violet flowers from late October - in a good year, it can still be in flower at Christmas. It is an upright plant, growing to just over one metre (4ft), yet does not need staking and won't take over. It will put up with almost any conditions, even partial shade, and is mildew-free.

We grow it alongside Aster umbellatus, which provides a lovely structural backdrop with its silvery seedheads. Miscanthus sinensis 'Rotsilber' would also make a beautiful textured combination. It earns its place in the November garden for being so easy to grow, and providing such an uncommon flower shade to contrast with the more usual pinks and reds of the chrysanthemums.  

- Helen Picton, Manager, The Picton Garden, Herefordshire
More about The Picton Garden

Acer sylvatica Isabel Grace

Nyssa sylvatica ‘Isabel Grace'

Nyssa is our signature tree, and never fails to perform. A particular gem is rare Nyssa sylvatica ‘Isabel Grace’, which makes a fantastic showstopper in November, turning blood red and appearing to glow in the late autumn sun.

This is a slow-growing, small to medium sized tree with a much more slender leaf than N. sylvatica. Planted away from exposure to wind it very quickly rewards you with vibrant colours sure to put a smile on your face!

Our best example is near Nyssa Grove but we have 10 in the garden, some very prominently positioned near paths. We companion plant them with large banks of rhododendrons, as the dark green backdrop works well. Planting in a secluded spot works best - you can then ‘discover’ the tree, causing a little intake of breath as you see it in all its glory!

We plant young, healthy specimens in oversized planting pits, firmed in with a 12cm layer of pulverised Scots pine bark. Once planted, you have lit the blue touch paper and can simply stand back awaiting the spectacle!

- Andy Jesson, Head Gardener, Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex
More about Sheffield Park and Garden

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Each of these gardens linked to on the left is an RHS Partner Garden offering free entry to RHS members (main cardholder), either throughout the open period or at selected times. For free entry times, check your Members' Handbook or search Garden Finder.

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