Top tips on giving your borders an Autumn makeover

Autumn planting has returned to fashion as spring can be a busy time anyway
Autumn planting has returned to fashion as spring can be a busy time anyway

Paul Cook, Curator at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, shares how to give your borders an Autumn Makeover.

The Main Borders at RHS Harlow Carr form one of the iconic views in the garden.

Long beds full of flowering herbaceous perennials and grasses frame the vista to the Doric columns in the woodland and early autumn is one of the best times to see them.

The low autumn sunlight catches the delicate tracery of the grasses and lights up the fiery tints of Heleniums and Helianthus.

As the night temperatures have dropped so quickly over the past couple of weeks the bright colours of the flowering perennials are being matched with an early rush of autumn colour from the trees and shrubs surrounding the Main Borders.

Early pictures of the Main Borders at Harlow Carr from the 1950’s show straight edged parallel beds dropping down the valley and ending at the Beck.

Over the years there have been subtle changes to this theme from an experiment in the 1960’s to slightly curve the beds and then a major overhaul in 2005 that added topiary pyramids and a central roundel feature.

The planting scheme has evolved as plants have faded and new introductions have been squeezed in, but the ethos of the scheme has remained; herbaceous perennials in bold complementary drifts planted close together to avoid any need for staking as the plants naturally support themselves.

This year however, the garden team have started wading deep in to these beds, taking out some of the more vigorous plants, so we can redesign, replant and create new plant combinations for 2018 and beyond.

Like most gardeners, we are making the most of the warm, moist soil before winter truly sets-in. This makes digging much quicker and easier and also helps any new plants we introduce root more quickly.

Autumn planting has returned to fashion as spring can be a busy time anyway and recent years have seen hot, dry springs which can hold back the establishment of new plantings.

One of the other handy advantages of giving your border a makeover now, is that any gaps between the new plants can be quickly filled with an assortment of bulbs to add further layers of colour and drama to the garden.

For planting advice go to the RHS website or pop by our Plant Centre at the garden and talk to a member of the team there. Or you could make the most of our free advisory service in the garden entrance conservatory, every Monday in October from 11am - 3pm. get stuck in now and reap the rewards of your efforts next year.

For information about RHS Garden Harlow Carr go to