Applying some rouge

Seeing red: Acers are among the plants that will bring dramatic colour to the autumn garden.
Seeing red: Acers are among the plants that will bring dramatic colour to the autumn garden.
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Whatever this summer has been like (and there are still a few weeks left for the sun to get its act together again), there should be no reason why we shouldn’t be seeing red this month and next.

Red-flowering and red-foliaged plants will hopefully turn September and October into months to remember – for all the right reasons.

Clematis offers some absolute gems at this time of the year. Many varieties flowering late produce large blooms, and ‘Rouge Cardinal’, a sun-lover itself, bears velvety red flowers 10cm across that are simply real show-stoppers.

‘Royal Velours’ produces, as the name suggests, velvety flowers with a red-purple colour, from 4-8cm across, while Ville de Lyon produces really big flowers (10-13cm across) that are rich red.

Red foliage is also on offer from Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus), a fantastic plant that self-clings to walls, fences and even trees, using suckers.

The leaves of most Virginia creepers are brightly coloured in autumn. Parthenocissus henryana turns bright red as summer fades, as does Parthenocissus thomsonii. And for perennials, look no further than Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’, a clump-forming perennial that bears vivid red flowers from early to late summer. ‘Gloire de Nancy’ is another strong perennial flowering throughout summer.

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is a fabulous foliage plant that brings its own specific style to the garden as well as colour. Some maples bear red or coloured foliage right through the growing season, others colour red as autumn comes on.

If you’re worried that space is a problem, remember some cultivated maples will live happily for years in pots. ‘Crimson Queen’ is one container candidate. Otherwise there is great choice for gardens of all sizes.

Then, of course, there are numerous deciduous trees which explode into colour before they shed their leaves and shut up shop until the following spring. There are all those ornamental Japanese maples, Amelanchier lamarckii (snowy mespilus), the mountain ashes, and even Parrotia persica, the Persian ironwood, which colours well on acid soil.

And anyone who has ever seen Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Festival’ in all its glory will never forget its stunning, fiery, maple-shaped leaves. It can reach 60ft in height, so it’s definitely not a tree for a small garden.