Autumn is a magical season when the spotlight falls on those hardy trees and shrubs that bring a riot of colour to fading borders.
Vibrant foliage, berries, hips and seed heads make a magnificent display, and there are even a few flowers still to be found. A few carefully chosen hardy plants will bring a bright splash of colour that will ignite your planting schemes. Position them carefully to maximise their impact - autumn leaves backlit by the sun create a breathtaking display.
If you're looking for inspiration then take a look at our favourite top 10 hardy plants and flower bulbs for autumn. Browse our range to discover more hardy plants for autumn colour that are available to buy online.
Parthenocissus is a superb climber for autumn colour; but it's not for the faint hearted - this vigorous grower will scale a large wall in no time! P. quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper) and P. tricuspidata (Boston Ivy) are the most widely grown. Their green leaves colour to crimson making a dramatic and showy wall covering. Few climbers offer such vibrant colour, particularly when grown in shade. Parthenocissus is the exception to the rule, positively thriving in those cold North and East facing positions.
The distinctive berries of Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion' make this hardy shrub instantly recognisable. Clusters of bright purple, glossy, bead-like fruits appear among the red-tinted, autumn foliage, and remain on the bare stems long after the leaves have fallen. Callicarpa makes a showy autumn shrub. The stems are prized for bringing colour and interest to autumn flower arrangements.
The rounded foliage of Cercidiphyllum japonicum makes an attractive display throughout the year, reaching its peak in autumn when it turns to orange-red and gold. This fast growing tree makes a superb specimen if you have the space. Commonly known as the Katsura tree, it is well known for sweet, candy-floss fragrance of its fallen leaves that release the scent as they deteriorate. Colours are at their best when it is grown on an acid soil.
A Crab Apple tree in late autumn is a sight to behold. These majestic trees have superb autumn foliage but are best loved for their colourful fruits that crowd the branches well into winter, providing valuable food for birds. Try Malus 'Indian Magic' for a spectacular display of apricot-yellow fruits. If space is at a premium then M. 'John Downie' is a well known, compact variety that makes superb crab apple jelly. For especially small gardens, M. 'Red Obelisk' is particularly useful, with a slender conical habit. With so many shapes and sizes to choose from, there is a Crab Apple to suit almost every garden.
Many of the deciduous Euonymus species have superb autumnal foliage. E. alatus is certainly one of the most reliable turning a fabulous coppery pink colour. As the leaves fall they reveal the corky stems that make an intriguing feature themselves. If you like corky stems then E. phellomanus is worth growing too, and its bright pink fruits make a colourful feature from late summer onwards. Don't overlook the cultivars of our native Spindle tree - E. europaeus 'Red Cascade' has superb scarlet colouring, and bears a profusion of pink and orange winged fruits.
A stalwart of gardens up and down the UK, Pyracantha remains one of my favourites. This hardy shrub is tough, resilient and undemanding making it very easy to grow. At its best when trained as a wall shrub, it produces an abundance of berries in autumn that almost smother the evergreen foliage. The bright berries of P. 'Golden Charmer' stand out particularly nicely. If you are planting Pyracantha as a security hedge then P. 'Red Column' makes a good choice for its dense and very prickly stems. Where Fireblight is an issue choose a variety with some built-in resistance such as those in the 'Saphyr' series.
It's not too late to for a burst of colourful flowers. Chrysanthemums are the ultimate late flowering perennials, bringing a refreshing rainbow of blooms to fading borders and containers. I'm particularly fond of Chrysanthemum 'Hardy Patio Mixed' which forms a neat, rounded cushion of flowers that looks amazing in patio pots! These hardy perennials are the perfect way to add a bright colour accent to the garden in autumn.
Commonly known as Chokeberry, this hardy shrub deserves a stronger presence in UK gardens. With fragrant spring blooms, and glossy winter berries there is plenty of year round interest. But it is best known for its glorious autumn leaf colours - red, orange and yellow tones meld together in a fiery display that will certainly draw attention. Aronia x prunifolia 'Brilliant' and A. x prunifolia 'Autumn Magic' will both live up to their names, giving an unforgettable display.
Best known by its common name of Geulder Rose, this hardy deciduous shrub makes a great choice for bringing autumn interest to wildlife areas. The shiny red berries are a magnet for birds, providing a rich food source. The maple-like foliage turns to brilliant hues of pink, purple and red in a spectacular display. This reliable shrub makes an excellent hedging plant, but is equally good as a stand-alone specimen, tolerating most conditions without issue.
Breathtaking autumn foliage that will rival any Maple in autumn! The palmate leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua turn to vibrant shades of purple, scarlet, orange and gold that glows like a beacon in the waning autumn sunlight. This hardy deciduous tree makes a magnificent specimen plant for larger gardens, producing some of the best and longest lasting autumn displays you'll see.
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