I’m sitting in my studio at the bottom of the garden as I write, overlooking Ewelme brook and pinching myself - again. It was a dream come true when nearly three ago we walked into a village we had never visited before to tour the open gardens. We saw a For Sale sign and discovered a gorgeous medieval thatched cottage with water running along the bottom of its garden. It took our breath away and we knew that this was where we wanted to be.
So, amazingly, we moved, and I now work in a green oak building that has glass on three sides and looks out over a protected meadow. There are red kites in the sky and the odd muntjac deer to watch. Oh - and ducks that swim along the stream and pop in for feeding.
The door is open, it’s a beautiful sunny day and I can hear running water. Milly is in her basket surveying the scene. Across the water from me (I know - how amazing is that!) there is a self seeded shot of deep autumnal red which I love. It’s a wonderful herbaceous perennial, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Taurus’ which I want you to know about as it adds height and bulk to a large border. It has attractive leaves and pretty deep red flowers from June to the first frosts, tolerates sun or partial shade, harmonises well with grasses and looks fab in both a tidy formal or natural style of planting. And today it’s got me thinking about Autumn and gardens and planting.
There is ongoing trend for naturalised sustainable planting and personally I love it. The idea is to choose plants that are absolutely right for their situation and to combine them in communities that look fab whilst co existing and then die well so they can be left to stand over winter. Add some evergreen structural planting as a plain foil that contrasts with, and really sets off, the busy-ness of the naturalised style and you’ve got something really special that will keep your garden interesting even in the deepest winter.
I’m using this naturalised style in my own garden. Inspired by the abundant and luscious chest height grasses and wild flowers in the meadow opposite it feels right and I’m getting so much pleasure from the one new bed I’ve created so far which was, conveniently, already backed by a row of low box hedging which acts as a simplifier and backdrop to my new planting.
I wander out (often in my dressing gown at weekends) and potter around tidying a dead leaf here and nipping a dead head there. With planting I love so easily accessible it’s easy to notice a new bud or spot that the first leaf has ‘coloured up’ in autumn and this gives me so much pleasure. My daily meander is a break from sitting at my laptop and being in the thrall of Instagram and is absolutely essential for my wellbeing (along with the longer daily walk with Milly, of course).
I tidy as little as possible come late autumn so the birds and insects can continue to feed on seeds and the plant silhouettes stand ready to look spectacular dusted with frost. This looks so much better than bare soil to my eyes and having them there, though gnarly and dead, also reminds me, when it’s cold and dark, that spring will come again.
You can use a range of plants for this style - for inspiration you might channel Piet Oudolf, Henk Gerritsen and Dan Pearson - but think about including grasses - I love all varieties of Miscanthus, Stipa gigantea, Hylotelephium (previously known as Sedum), Verbena bonariensis (that little group of purple heads on tall stems - you see it everywhere as it’s so useful, the tall structure of purple fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’) and, of course, the lovely Persicaria a ‘Taurus’. This selection will give you interest in colour terms all the way through until the first frost and then height and interest after that if you don’t cut them down…
Right - I’m off for that meander. Maybe you’d like to potter into your own space and see what you can find?!