5 November 2014

Autumn inspiration and seasonal ideas for gardeners


So it’s official – a walk to take in the seasonal colours of autumn is good for our wellbeing, according to new research by the National Trust.

Indeed, now is the time for considering what we might want to plant to give us a blaze of autumn colour in future years, whether it’s Japanese maples or other shrubs and trees which produce stunning burnt orange, red and burgundy hues as well as vibrant berries.

Here are some of the places across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK that where you may find inspiration this autumn:

Divis Mountain, Hannahstown, Belfast, County Antrim



Part of the Belfast Hills chain which ring the city, along with Black Mountain this provides a stunning backdrop to the western edges of Greater Belfast. On a clear day there are views of Strangford Lough, the Mournes and the Sperrins, as well as Scotland and Donegal.


The colour purple also dominates the mountain of Divis in the autumn. Look out for the purple-coloured and wonderfully named Devil’s-bit Scabious carpets. It’s a curious-looking plant, with a purple head with antlers sticking out and is the food source for the marsh fritillary butterfly, only found on three sites on Divis.

The wild countryside has also caught the eye of filmmakers, most notable on the recently released blockbuster Dracula Untold, several scenes of which were filmed at Divis Mountain.

Mount Stewart, Newtownards, Co Down (; tel: 028 4278 8387)

Perched on the fringes of Strangford Lough and just a short drive from Newtownards, this exquisite house and gardens is the perfect retreat to capture the mood of the changing seasons. While the house itself – once the home of Lord and Lady Londonderry – provides a fascinating tour, likewise the gardens are a magnificent display of opulence, featuring an Italian Garden and a Dodo Terrace.

Follow the lake walk to discover the ornamental trees and shrubs in their autumn coats of red and gold, reflected in the still water of the lake. There are all kinds of things for kids to discover as well, including red squirrels and ducks, figures of dinosaurs, cheetahs, orangutans, squirrels and dodos resting among unique plants. The colours around the lake change as the season passes, while the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world.

And if you feel like venturing further afield …

Thorp Perrow Arboretum, Bedale, North Yorkshire (; tel: 01677 425 323)

This amazing arboretum, woodland garden (left) and falconry centre has 85 acres of woodland walks and boasts one of the largest and rarest collections of trees and shrubs in the north of England and holds five National Collections – ash, lime, walnut, laburnum and cotinus.

Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire (

Wicken Fen is one of Europe’s most important wetlands, supporting an abundance of wildlife. The raised boardwalk (left) and lush grass droves allow easy access to a lost landscape where visitors can enjoy the vibrant russet tones of the sedge in the autumn months.

Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury, Gloucestershire ( westonbirt; tel: 01666 880 220)

Established in 1829 by wealthy landowner Robert Holford, and later developed by his son, George, much of Westonbirt’s renowned autumn colour is often credited to Sir George’s plantings of Japanese maples (right) between 1875 and 1900, many of which are still alive today. Westonbirt is home to the National Japanese Maple Collection. The Forestry Commission opened Westonbirt Arboretum to the public in 1961 and, in 1966, a new Acer Glade was established alongside the original one planted by Robert and George Holford in 1870.

Powis Castle, Powys ( powis-castle; tel: 01938 551 944)

Rising above the terraced garden and estate, this medieval fortress provides a fantastic autumnal setting. The warm colours of the castle appear to echo the rich tones of seasonal foliage (left), as the red walls match the red vines and leaves in the surrounding woodlands. Follow the route through the woods and look out for bird and bat boxes.

Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire (; tel: 01782 646646)

Contemporary designer Piet Oudolf’s Rivers of Grass (right) are at their most spectacular at this time of year – and walking right through the tall Molinias is positively encouraged. Hot autumn colours simmer as light softly hits the planting among the 70 flower beds in the Italian Gardens, while the swathes of coloured grasses in the Rivers of Grass make a staggering impact.There’s also woodland originally planted by Capability Brown and more trees, chosen especially for their autumn colour, have been recently planted.

Best of the Bunch

Japanese maple (acer)

The fantastic foliage of these trees and shrubs come into their own in autumn in a blaze of oranges, reds and burgundies. Grow them in full sun or dappled shade in leafy, moist but well-drained soil. Some, such as A. palmatum ‘Garnet’, prefer ericaceous compost. Mulch annually in autumn and shelter from cold winds and spring frosts which may damage new growth. Badly placed shoots should be cut off in winter to develop an even network of branches. On established plants keep pruning to a minimum.


Good Enough To Eat

Planting Fruit Trees

Check out specialist fruit nursery catalogues now to order your bare-root trees to plant during the dormant season. Pick a mild, dry day to prepare the ground for your trees, digging over the area and incorporating plenty of organic matter before digging a good sized individual hole to accommodate the roots without cramming them in. Loosen the subsoil by breaking up the bottom of the hole, putting plenty of compost in the bottom and working it in. Make sure you have low stakes and tree ties to insert which will support the tree when planted.

  • Finish picking maincrop apples like Spartan and Sunset
  • Check greenhouse heating and insulate to save heat
  • Make sure bowls of bulbs being forced for indoor flowering do not dry out
  • Make your own leaf mould, bagging up fallen leaves into black polythene bags with a few holes in them for air
  • Protect tender plants by covering crowns with straw or wrapping horticultural fleece around them
  • Clean bird feeders with a stiff brush and top them up during the cooler months
  • Continue mulching bare ground and beds with compost or other organic matter
  • Lift and divide perennials including clumps of crocosmias, replanting them in soil with added organic matter
  • Lift and store dahlias in wooden trays in a cool, frost-free place
  • Pick the last of the runner beans


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