Much is made of the beauty of grasses during the autumn and winter. Pictures of sunlight sparkling on panicles covered with hoar frost are very seductive, but, in fact, the days when we see this are rare. Chasmanthium, though, looks attractive during autumn and early winter even without the addition of frost. The diaphanous, copper-coloured seedheads are flat and dangle from arched stems. It has a reputation for seeding itself everywhere. My clumps are growing in the top of a low wall and I have not had a problem with unwanted seedlings.
HEIGHT/SPREAD 75cm x 50cm.
ORIGINS United States and Mexico.
CONDITIONS Well-drained soil.
SEASON Autumn and winter.
The other eight plants chosen by John Hoyland for autumn interest are
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
Hesperantha coccinea f. alba
Aeonium haworthii ‘Variegatum’
Malus x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’
Clematis cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells’
Buy the November issue of GARDENS ILLUSTRATED (Issue 179) to find out more about them.
PLUS John suggests botanic gardens as among the best places to go to see plants at their best through autumn and winter.
Many gardens that are open to the public close down during the winter months but Britain’s Botanic Gardens remain open. At the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh there is always something intriguing and unusual. Early in the month, look out for Sorbus aff. filipes, which has startling bubblegum-pink berries. Within a few weeks they fade to white. Inverleith Row/Arboretum Place, Edinburgh EH3 5LR.
The University of Oxford Botanic garden has its own arboretum six miles south of the city. The Harcourt Arboretum is a magical place at any time of the year but like all arboreta it is now an explosion of autumn colour. The core of the arboretum is a pinetum, which provides an evergreen backdrop to some spectacular foliage. Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire OX44 9PX.
Oxford is Britain’s oldest botanic garden and the National Botanic Garden of Wales is the newest, established in 2000. It is building collections of many genera, including winter-flowering witch hazels, but at this time of year head straight for the Great Glasshouse. Here you can see fynbos and other plants from the Western Cape area of South Africa, and a display of plants from southwest Australia. The glasshouse, designed by Sir Norman Foster, is a relaxing place
to linger, especially on a cold and windy November day. Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire SA32 8HG.
Photograph by Rachel Warne