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Autumn Blues


Autumn is definitely my favourite season of the year. There is an air of tranquility and quiet satisfaction in the garden in autumn. Gone is the frenetic rush of growth that heralds spring. Gone is the intensity of effort that is required to maintain the summer garden. In their place is a definite feeling that at this time of year, life in the garden is more relaxed and peaceful. Now that the sun is lower in the sky, the light is of a warmer tone and less harsh. Consequently, the colours in the autumn garden assume a jewel-like quality. The familiar autumn palette of warm yellows, mauves and russets glow in this light. There are also, however, plants with blue flowers that excel at this time of year.   Although blue is a colour more usually associated with the spring and summer garden, there are many plants with blue flowers that will light up the autumn garden. And these are not wishy washy pastel blues. The blues of the plants below will transform your garden in autumn with the intensity of their colour, especially when viewed against the normal autumn tones.

Aster frikartii 'Monch'

  Considered by the late Graham Stewart Thomas as one of his favourite garden plants, this aster will provide you with colour from August right through to November. The flowers are of an intense violet blue (think ultraviolet light here), with many , thin spidery petals and a yellow centre. The plant will grow to about 60 cm, (two feet), does not require support and is resistant to mildew.

Geranium wallichianum 'Buxton's Variety'

Described by Graham Stewart Thomas as a "pearl beyond price", this geranium throws out trailing leafy stems in late spring and early summer. The leaves are a mottled green with light brown and cream accents. Unusually for a geranium it is tap-rooted. In late summer and autumn, sky blue saucer shaped flowers with a distinct white centre are borne on the trailing stems. The petals have the appearance of crumpled paper that someone has attempted to smooth out. It will go on flowering right through to the first frosts and is at home scrambling around between, over and under other perennials.  

Gentiana 'Kingfisher'

This autumn flowering gentian is a rosette forming semi evergreen perennial with fine lance shaped leaves. The buds when they appear in late September are elongated, rising up without stalks from the bed of leaves. The buds are striped green and blue, giving them an almost reptilian appearance. When they open in October, the trumpet shaped flowers are a vivid blue with a white stripe on each petal. I grow mine in a pot rather than in the open ground which I think may be too wet for it in my garden.

Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii'

This aconitum has dense branched panicles of rich royal blue flowers from late September to early November. It grows to a height of about 120 cm (four feet) and is good for a mid border position. Bear in mind, however, that all parts of this plant are poisonous and that it should not therefore be planted where young children could access it.  

Salvia guarantica

  A fine specimen plant for a back of border position, as it grows to about 150 cm (five feet). This salvia bears electric blue flowers from September right through to December. The flowers are of the familiar salvia shape - top petal erect and hooded, with the lower petal spreading and slightly convex. The stems are as good as the flowers, their dark inky blue black colour providing an unexpected bonus. This plant can be seen to great effect in late autumn in Mount Stewart and the walled garden of Rowallane.


Copyright A Walsh 2002-2007