Local Autumn Colour

Our first talk of the 2018/19 Garden Club year was Local Autumn Colour, by Terry Underhill

Terry Underhill treated a large audience from the Garden Club to a sumptuous visual treat with numerous beautiful pictures illustrating his theme. He has been gardening since he was 4, starting work in the Parks Department at Birmingham at the age of 15 and is still active at 80. In a varied career, he was a propagator and botanist, a Percy Thrower ghost writer for magazine articles, has taken part in over 500 TV gardening programmes and visited 55 countries leading botanical and plant-finding trips.

Terry made wide-ranging suggestions for autumn colour in our gardens, from colourful small trees such as liquidambar and arbutus unedo (strawberry tree), shrubs such as cornus, viburnums, cotoneasters, pyracantha and callicarpa, through to squashes, chard, purple kale and apples. More unusual shrubs include the yellow and red tinged leaves of coprosma pina colada, the red leaved, pink flowered loropetalum chinense, and leycesteria Formosa (pheasant berry) ‘Golden Lanterns’.

He recommended hot colours such as kniphofia (red hot poker) and the cigar plant (cuphea caeciliae) with long orange flowers, as a contrast to cool colours ranging from biennial silver spikey flowered eryngium ‘Mrs Willmott’s Ghost’ to the deep blue of perennial salvia Amistad. Purple verbena bonariensis and liriope muscari contrast well with yellow rudbeckias and orange heleniums, while grasses add structure and softness as well as a range of subtle colours. For added variety, he suggested late summer and autumn flowering bulbs and corms such as amaryllis belladonna, cyclamen hederifolium, autumn crocus, sternbergia lutea (yellow crocus-type flower) and red schizostylis (now named hesperantha) coccinea. Nerines, mainly pink but in various shades from white to red, are well worth planting for late colour. The National Collection of nerines is at Bickham Cottage, Kenn near Exeter and can be seen by arrangement till the end of November.

Terry also gave some useful advice, such as burying at least three quarters of a hydrangea cutting in compost, and propagating heucheras by inserting just a small section of stem with attached leaf in a pot. These plants are familiar, but he pointed out that the ‘powers that be’ have made some confusing new name changes to other common garden plants, such as hylotelephium spectabile instead of sedum (‘Autumn Joy’ is the one in many people’s gardens) and symphotricum instead of some types of aster.
We learned a lot!

Many thanks to Jeanette Pearce for the above report.