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We asked the Curators of the four RHS Gardens which autumn plants they cherish most, and how to get the best from them
Inject some choice autumn colour into your garden with these outstanding plants, as suggested by the RHS Curators - or simply visit your nearest RHS Garden to see them dazzle!
Found on the edge of Oakwood with Seven Acres, Disanthus is happiest in part shade with a slightly acidic soil. The autumn colour kicks off from late summer and holds for many weeks until turning a vibrant crimson before the leaves finally drop.
We grow it alongside Japanese anemones, where the pink flowers complement the shades of red.
More about Disanthus cercidifolius
Growing in profusion under the cherry trees at the entrance to the Glasshouse Landscape, this wonderful autumn crocus has a pale white stem crowned with pink petals.
Mature bulbs easily produce 10-15 flowers each, so a ‘wow’ display can be enjoyed when you plant in big groups. Best grown in full sun to part shade, we find Colchicums incredibly easy and good value at Wisley.
We are just in the final throes of a very successful Colchicum trial in the Dry Garden (right). A number of new Colchicum Awards of Garden Merit (AGM) are being considered out of the 152 cultivars grown.
A favourite of mine is Colchicum autumnale ‘Album’. Because of our heavy clay, substantial amounts of grit needed to be incorporated into the soil mix to help with drainage.
Planted in 1972, when the garden was owned by the Robinson family, this particular tree has grown into a magnificent specimen and is now considered a Champion. The tree does well on most soils and can tolerate compaction (hence its frequent use as a street tree).
Our Champion tree is located by the lake and comes into its own in autumn when it turns a beautiful wine red, which is most spectacular against a sunlit blue sky. Sadly, due to ash dieback in the area, this may not be a tree for the future - all the more reason to enjoy it now.
More about Fraxinus angustifolia 'Raywood'
Hailing from China, and distinguishable by only having a three-lobed leaf, this grows well with us and thrives in our moist soil. The colour is deep and the leaves hold on into December.
We have a cultivar called ‘Spinners’, which was discovered by Peter Chappell, the creator of the Hampshire garden of the same name. This is planted in Lady Anne’s Arboretum with a selection of other Liquidambar.
This tree is great for a smaller garden; to get the best vibrancy, plant in a sheltered but open aspect.
Read about Spinners Garden, an RHS Partner Garden
'Zeal Giant' was given an Award of Garden Merit for its strong growth, ease of cultivation and high quality of bloom. It has vivid, dark pink flowers on strong 60cm tall stems, produced at a time of year when most things are dying back.
Though regarded by some as less than hardy, I would suggest a sheltered, well-drained and sunny site that has had a bit of organic matter added. It thrives out of doors at Rosemoor and looks stunning in our Fruit and Vegetable Garden planted on the south facing wall.
More about Nerine 'Zeal Giant'
Autumn wouldn't be the same without Cyclamen hederifolium. Here, the flowers drift through the woodland under mature beech trees and are dotted under the shrubs on the Winter Walk.
Plant them in autumn as potted plants rather than dry tubers, in partial shade. If they are happy they will seed around and increase to give cheerful carpets.
More about Cyclamen hederifolium
This compact golden-yellow cultivar is a small version of the perennial favourite, the black-eyed Rudbeckia. Long flowering and perfect to mix with grasses, this will perform in any garden.
It's Perfect for Pollinators, too.
More about Rudbeckia fulgida 'Little Goldstar'
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Make the most of this colourful season with one of the tempting autumn events taking place around the RHS Gardens. Whether you want planting advice, art exhibitions or foodie events, there's something for everyone.
More about autumn events around the RHS
Mrs Giddings, RHS member
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.