Planning for the Autumn Pt.1

By Lorraine Spooner

With the new planting season almost upon us, now is the time to start making preparations in readiness for autumn, so that no time is wasted in introducing your choice of new plants to the correct growing conditions for optimum root development.  With a strong root system, newly planted trees and shrubs will be able to counter the vagaries of the British weather.

But the first consideration must be THE RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT PLACE

Planning for the Autumn Pt.1

Understanding the unique conditions of your site will enable you to make informed decisions, rather than buying on impulse.  Factors which will affect growing conditions:

  • Water
  • Soil (type, structure and pH levels)
  • Wind
  • Sun
  • Light
  • Microclimates
  • Topography

With summer temperatures increasing at an alarming rate, creating areas of shade with drought tolerant plants will become of paramount importance.  You may now consider that lovely patio is no longer a place of relaxation but has become a furnace in high summer.  Some well positioned trees, providing dappled shade, will be a welcome relief.

A plant naturally suited to its site will be happy and healthy and, as a result, will be less labour intensive.  A plant struggling for survival will require more maintenance and will attract pest and disease problems, with consequent pest management cost.

But perhaps most importantly, precious resources can be conserved for other more demanding areas of the garden increasing the sustainability of your plot.

Also consider what is the intended purpose of this particular area of the garden?

  • To provide shade
  • To provide privacy
  • Be low maintenance
  • Be child/animal friendly
  • Be a place for quiet contemplation
Planning for the Autumn Pt.1

The choice of plants may be dependent on the above factors, but mistakes are frequently made when a plant’s characteristics have not been taken into consideration, such as height, width, spacing, speed of growth, water requirements or growing tolerances.   A plant growing in the wrong place can be moved, but this creates extra work and waste when the plant does not survive and has to be replaced.

Below I have provided some recommendations for different sites to ensure your choice of plant is…

The Right Plant in the Right Place

Dry sites in partial shade

A difficult site often occurring at the base of a fence or wall that faces away from the direction of the prevailing wind and is therefore sheltered from rain.  Also occurring beneath large, shallow rooted trees which create a rain shadow beneath their leaf canopies.  Incorporate plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure or leaf mould to aid moisture retention.  An irrigation system is recommended for this type of site.

Planning for the Autumn Pt.1

Cotoneaster frigidus ‘Cornubia’

Planning for the Autumn Pt.1

Garrya elliptica

Planning for the Autumn Pt.1

Osmanthus delavayi

Other plants to consider for this type of site:

Sarcococca confusa, Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s-tongue fern), Geranium phaeum and Bergenias.

Damp sites in partial shade

Replicating the cool, humid environment that characterises a woodland, the following plants would be suitable and could be underplanted with a tapestry of greens from a wide variety of ferns, which relish such conditions.