Landscape designer Sarah Layton of holistic garden consultancy Growthfully enjoys autumn’s rich colours whilst preparing and planting for the coming year

Photography: Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

At a time when so much was —and still is — unsure, the seasons and our gardens continue to turn. We have journeyed through the year and now autumn is upon us. If you are lucky enough to have a private outdoor space, you will know just what a salve and joy it has been to watch the seasons unfold over the last 18 months, even as uncertainty and lockdown set in. For me, it has been a place of hope and grounding; a haven when my head is spinning and my heart full of grief. And so, my garden has been extra crucial this year.  

Full-blooded rich autumn — the time of deep colour, bonfires, dewy mornings and cold nights. It’s a time to notice what is rather than what is not and enjoy the last hurrah before the days draw in.    

As I walk to my studio through a riot of meadow, my heart lifts and my hand reaches out to touch. I pause to examine some beauty in its vivid hue and feel grateful. I breathe deeply, look up at the sky, notice a bird going about its business and experience a sense of peace.  

My garden is fully autumnal now, with plants chosen to extend the season as long as possible. The leaves of recently planted Cercis canadensis (Redbud) are in full autumn livery — deep burgundy through to orange; fleshy stemmed Sedums (Stonecrop) show their full potential after teasing us for months, first as tiny little round buds close to the ground, then as fleshy green stems. They are good value all year and their dried-out winter silhouette will delight, too, as it is dusted with frost and caught in the sun’s rays. So many good things.

It’s a time for letting go. As the tree drops its leaves, they carpet beneath, adding nourishment to what is to come. We can do the same: release that which no longer serves us; make space for what does. Create space for the feelings that come with letting go. Soon all will quieten. Nature invites us to retreat and reflect internally, trusting that we will help ourselves through the winter journey and that spring will come. 

There are so many ways we can support ourselves, nurturing and growing throughout the colder months.  

The bulbs are gathered, arriving last week from my favourite supplier, Farmer Gracy. I’ve gone with “Miami Sunset” tulips (all the fiery shades in one flower), tiny Tete-a-Tete narcissi and “George” iris, which I will plant topped with something pretty such as violas, with a bit of ivy to dangle.  

Bulbs in the house delight me, too. Scented Paperwhite narcissus are forced for an early show in low, wide bowls, planted soon and popped somewhere cool until they shoot. 

And Amaryllis makes an appearance too, suspended in vases so their rooty bottoms barely touch the water. I just love the way they shoot so quickly, almost indecently, and have the most wonderful flowers.  

Five plants for autumn interest

• Aster x frikartii “Mönch”

Hydrangea “Little Lime”

Verbena bonariensis

Miscanthus “Malepartus”

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides; @growthfully