Shrubs to keep colours going

Viburnum opulus berries
Viburnum opulus berries
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While ornamental grasses and the daisy-like blooms of heleniums and rudbeckias continue to provide colour, it’s important to have some shrubs in your border which will provide the link between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn and beyond.

The most important thing is to make sure you choose shrubs which will be suited to your soil and situation. Acid lovers such as rhododendrons and camellias won’t thrive in alkaline soil. If in doubt, look at neighbouring gardens to see which shrubs are thriving for a clue as to what will do well in your own garden.

Workhorse shrubs include hydrangeas, which flower in late summer offering large blooms in shades of pink and blue before the flowerheads change colour to a rich straw-coloured hue, maintaining their shape as they dry beautifully on the stem.

The dried blooms can remain on the shrub throughout autumn and winter, providing a structural focal point in the cooler months when much else has died down, and protect the emerging leaves from frost damage in the depths of winter.

For continual interest throughout autumn and beyond, plump for mopheads such as H. m. ‘Madame Emile Mouillere’, which has white green-tinted blooms that flower freely from the end of summer and turn pink progressively through autumn.

Another autumn stalwart is the spindle bush (Euonymus alatus), a deciduous shrub known for its spectacular autumn colour, producing a crimson display of leaves. When the leaves drop, you can see corky flanges running up and down the stem which give the plant some winter interest as well.

If you want berries, there are many candidates including cotoneaster, pyracantha and holly, but there are others. Viburnum opulus, a compact 90cm (3ft) variety, bears white flowerheads in early summer and clusters of glassy red berries and red leaves in autumn.

Other shrubs with colourful autumn fruits include the Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’, which produces unusual purple berries, and Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’, which bears bright red berries provided a male is planted next to a female.

Autumn colour shows up best against a solid dark background such as conifers and evergreen shrubs, so consider this when planning your planting to bring out the best visual display in your garden.