As summer fades into autumn the summer flowering perennials will still look good. Later, autumnal tones change the scene with dying foliage and stems of plants and remnants of seedheads reminding us of the once lush growth of summer. Before rushing out with the secateurs to chop them all down save yourself some work, leave them, then enjoy another phase of their beauty. The drying seedheads of plants like Sedum or Echinacea have their own particular beauty providing a dark architectural silhouette through the winter months. Then when any frosts appear they charm again enclosed briefly within a crystal-like form. These also provide mini hotels for wildlife and many unseen garden visitors, enabling them to overwinter and add biodiversity in the garden.
Ornamental grasses look good through autumn and winter, their colours enriched when highlighted by the low sunlight. Our trees which have blended into the background are coming front stage and putting on a final dramatic display of colours. Look out for something different, the Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum) with its heart-shaped leaves, as well as colour in autumn it smells of candyfloss! Also shrubs with attractive berries, there is Callicarpawith its unusually coloured striking violet berries.
As the leaves begin to fall, remove them from your lawn and plants so that they do not rot under soggy clumps, then bag them up to make a leaf mould. Leave the rest amongst the borders to create a mulch which will nourish your soil then during the winter you will be able to enjoy watching birds turning them over and scratching around for tasty creatures amongst them.
There is still time to plant bulbs. Try Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) with starry blue flowers. These will naturalise under deciduous shrubs where you are less likely to disturb them and only about 4” high so do not leave lots of untidy dying foliage to clear.
If you are planting containers with winter pansies etc, maybe add something which can later be used in the garden such as a fern, coloured leaf Heuchera or the small shrubs which are available.
This is a good time to think about your garden and plan for next year. If you are prepared for more strenuous work you can dig over areas in preparation for planting. Ensure removal of perennial weeds, incorporate plenty of organic matter, manure or garden compost and dig over leaving clumps to break down. This is not generally an essential routine task but is ideal for new areas and difficult soil and done thoroughly should only need doing once. Just continue to add organic matter which will naturally become incorporated into the soil.