October Garden Maintenance Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves…of red and gold and brown and yellow and bronze and crimson and pale, pale green

This is the month when Autumn Leaves take centre stage and if you have thought about how to achieve seasonal colour in your garden throughout the year, then this will be the time your acer, maple, rowan, spindle and bronzing fennels all work together to transport you, in your imagination, to Vermont for the spectacle of a golden Fall.

The words we use to describe the colours of autumn leaves roll deliciously off the tongue – warm browns, soft golds, deep russets, golden bronze, striking reds and buttery yellows…no wonder we garden designers get so enthused by the new palette of colours at our disposal at this time of the year.

There are three things that influence the splash of autumn colour you may be able to achieve in a planting design – the colour pigment in the leaves themselves, the length of nightfall and, of course, the weather. Of these three, it is the lengthening nights that dictate the rate that the leaves will start to change their colours but it is the pigments in the leaves that will determine what colours you end up with.

It is not an exact science but the pigments that affect leaf colouration are chlorophyll, carotenoids and anthocyanins. As we move into autumn and the nights grow longer and cooler, the production of chlorophyll – which gives leaves their basic green colour – slows and eventually stops. When this happens, and all the chlorophyll is destroyed, the carotenoids and anthocyanins pigments that are still present are effectively unmasked giving us the new palette we think of as Autumn colour. You can introduce and experiment with colour in your garden whatever the size of your outdoor space and although we all tend to think immediately of trees when we talk about Autumn leaves, it is worth remembering you can also get a good splash of autumn colour from other plants including shrubs, perennials (the foliage and the fruits) and even grasses. It’s worth remembering too that introducing autumn colour from these plants may be a more reliable route than simply replying on your trees.

We’ve picked six of our top plants for that tantalising show of Autumn reds and golds….and browns,and yellows and oranges and bronze…but if the ones we’ve selected are not suited to your soil or conditions, ask your local garden centre for a subsitute plant.

And if you have no outdoor space, then make a date with your nearest arboretum so you can see for yourself what all this autumn fuss is about.


1. Sorbus wilmorinii

2.Parottia persica


1.Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

2.Osmunda cinnamomea

Perennials & Grasses

1. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Flamingo’

2. Phlomis russeliana