Autumn is almost upon us and, as the seasons change, rich foliage and berries become the focus of attention for many gardeners.
While ornamental grasses and the daisy-like blooms of heleniums and rudbeckias continue to provide colour, it is important to have some shrubs in your border that will provide the link between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn and beyond.
Indeed, you don't have to have a huge garden with masses of trees to enjoy a good autumn show because shrubs can provide the rich foliage contrast, fragrance and berries to create plenty of interest.
Of course, the most important thing is to make sure you choose shrubs that will be suited to your soil and situation. Acid-lovers such as rhododendrons and camellias won't thrive in alkaline soil, so stick to the shrubs you know will thrive.
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If in doubt, look at neighbouring gardens to see which shrubs are thriving, which will give you some clue as to what will do well in your own garden.
Workhorse shrubs include hydrangeas, which flower in late summer offering large blooms in shades of pink and blue before the flowerheads change colour to a rich straw-coloured hue, maintaining their shape as they dry beautifully on the stem.
The dried blooms can remain on the shrub throughout autumn and winter, providing a structural focal point in the cooler months when much else has died down, and protect the emerging leaves from frost damage in the depths of winter. They don't need clipping until the following spring.
For continual interest throughout autumn and beyond, I'd plump for mopheads such as H. m. madame Emile Mouillere, which has white green-tinted blooms that flower freely from the end of summer and turn pink progressively through autumn.
Hydrangeas like a semi-shaded spot and acid soil, so plant them in ericaceous compost.
One of my favourite shrubs is the castor oil palm Fatsia japonica, with its huge, deep green, tropical leaves all year round. It is among the toughest of specimens, growing in shade where nothing else will survive and it even bears greenish white flowers in the autumn, which stand out against the glassy, palmate leaves. Give it plenty of room because it grows to around 1.5m (5ft) high by 1.25m (4ft) wide.
Several autumn-flowering hebes are also worth including in the border, such as Autumn Glory, which at 60cm (2ft) x 60cm (2ft) is perfect for the front of the border, bearing purple flowers which withstand the elements and can flower almost up to Christmas. Hebes need a sunny spot and reasonably well-drained soil but are generally not fussy and don't need pruning.
Another autumn stalwart is the spindle bush (Euonymus alatus), a deciduous shrub known for its spectacular autumn colour, producing a crimson display of leaves. When the leaves drop, you can see corky flanges running up and down the stem which give the plant some winter interest as well.
If you want berries, of course there are many obvious candidates including cotoneaster, pyracantha and holly, but there are others, too, which will keep you in flowers, berries, scent and foliage all year.
Viburnum opulus, a compact 90cm (3ft) variety, bears white flowerheads in early summer and clusters of glassy red berries and red leaves in autumn.
Other shrubs with colourful autumn fruits include the Callicarpa bodinieri Profusion, which produces unusual purple berries, and Skimmia japonica Nymans, which bears bright red berries provided a male is planted next to a female for berry production.
Autumn colour shows up best with a solid dark background such as conifers and evergreen shrubs, so consider this when planning your planting.