Summer may be coming to a close, but you don’t have to head indoors and hibernate. Clever use of autumn planting, lighting, outdoor heating, garden buildings – even cosy blankets – can help you enjoy your outdoor room throughout the autumn
During lockdown, lots of us got busy making our outdoor space a lovely place to spend time in, so it would be a shame if we headed back inside, just because ‘summer’ is over. A few alterations will help you enjoy your garden right through the autumn and even into the winter.
Let there be light
Jules Cant of Tierra Designs says: ‘Winter lighting can be used to highlight parts of the garden that are often overlooked, be it the gnarled bark of a tree or the seedheads still standing late into the year. The key is using subtle lighting to illuminate the bits you want to highlight, rather than blanket lighting the whole garden.’
Umbrella lights can be attached to your patio parasol, so they can light up a table. Hang single lights in the trees like baubles, and place uplighters at the base of architectural plants.
For a modern look, try running LED strip lights underneath a bench, or steps.
But do remember to turn off mains-powered lights before you go to bed, both for safety and so that they don’t disrupt wildlife.
The heat is on
Don’t let the party end because everyone gets chilly.
If you tend to pop out in the garden for an hour or so after work, a heater that you can just switch on and off is ideal. If you are choosing an electric heater look for an infrared one – it will heat your body, rather than the air around
you, so is perfect for breezy weather.
Freestanding heaters are handy as they can be moved where you want them – even inside sometimes – although a wall-mounted one might be better if you have younger children. Gas heaters can be very effective, but remember
that the gas canister can make them heavy.
Sitting around a fire pit or chimenea can make you feel like you are camping – and of course it’s what you need to toast marshmallows! Some can double up as barbecues with the addition of a suitable grill. Or sit a Dutch oven on the fire to cook warming stews and even bread.
Give me shelter
Creating a little shelter from the wind and light rain can open up many more hours of garden time. A huge cantilever parasol can cover a big table and give some shelter from a bit of drizzle.
If you want something more permanent, there are plenty of custom-made and DIY wooden gazebos to choose from. Or how about a covered reading seat, ideal for just one to enjoy a book before the sun goes down.
If you want to cover a larger area of patio, a cheap way to do this is a with a waterproof patio sail.
If your garden is particularly windy, use existing features – the walls of the house, or a hedge – to create a more secluded area. A very sociable area can be created with a sunken seating area surrounding a fire pit.
Keep a pile of suitably soft and snuggly blankets in a pretty basket by the patio door so that you can slip one around your shoulders, or over a cold seat, as the sun goes down.
Jules Cant of Tierra Designs recommends his favourite autumn plants.
‘Grasses will often hold their seedheads well into the autumn as well as offering some nice golden tones in the low winter sun. Molinia caerulea subsp.arundinacea ‘Skyracer’ is a tall grass that turns a warm yellow and even looks great when covered in frost.
‘Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is another late flowerer with arching bottlebrush flowers – it’s also quite well behaved so ideal for the smaller garden. Panicum grasses also come late to the party and offer some good autumnal interest.
‘Later-flowering perennials include Schizostylis, Asters, Heleniums, and Rudbeckia, which not only flowers late but holds its seedheads right through winter, offering great colour and texture for the last quarter of the year.
‘The seedheads of Phlomis russelina stand right through winter and offer an amazing spectacle on a frosty morning.
‘For larger shrubs and trees, nothing quite beats Rhus typhina or the sumach tree for vibrancy. Abelia grandiflora, meanwhile, provides beautiful scent well into November.’