The changing season at RHS Garden Harlow Carr brings new inspiration

PUBLISHED: 10:04 17 October 2012 | UPDATED: 14:59 28 November 2017

The changing season at RHS Garden Harlow Carr brings new inspiration

The changing season at RHS Garden Harlow Carr brings new inspiration

The changing season brings new inspiration says Alison Goding, garden manager at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate

Autumn is always a time of mixed feelings when it comes to gardening. A lament of a summer just passed but the excitement of planning ahead for the New Year. In the garden the transition has started as vibrant colours fade to antique, and silhouettes and shadows grow taller.

It is a beautiful time of year, fruit and vegetables are being harvested and there’s a glow in the garden like no other time of year as the sun sits low in the sky.

Cookery books are out and jam and chutney creations are in full swing. But while most are enjoying the end of the gardening season, for the garden team at RHS Gardens Harlow Carr, Harrogate, a new one is just beginning.

Autumn bulbs never seem, in my mind, to be heralded in quite the same way as their spring relatives. This is such a shame but with early planning much can be achieved to keep colour growing. Planning is integral to all that we do at Harlow Carr and choosing bulbs is where it all starts. We start receiving catalogues in the summer and using our notes, made over the year of what bulbs looked good, and ones that didn’t perform so well, we make our selection.

By planning ahead and getting our orders in early we can select autumn flowering bulbs to flower this year.



Crocus speciosus f. albus is an autumn flowering crocus and is from the Iris family Iridaceae. Last year hundreds were planted at the end of August on the Kalmia Lawn and within a few weeks the slender ice-white flowers appeared scattered in the grass. Other autumn flowering species include C. sativus (Saffron Crocus) with lilac flowers and purple veins, and C. nudiflorum with rich purple flowers. Colchicums are commonly referred to as ‘autumn flowering crocus’ but are not a true crocus, being instead part of the Colchicaceae family.

They produce a more blousy type of flower, goblet-shaped and sometimes in double form that can sometimes disappoint by flopping under its own weight. But there are some beautiful shades ranging from dark pink, purple to lilac and white. C. bivonae is fragrant and quite robust producing up to six tessellated, purplish-pink flowers. Although Cyclamen hederifolium is not a bulb (it comes from a corm) it can provide the most delicate scent and richest of pinks in some of the shadiest of places; we have them growing under a hedges and trees.

A lovely aspect of this plant is not only its obliging nature to flower when the rest of the garden is going to bed but also the shape and pattern of the leaf Hederifolium, meaning ivy-like; each one looks so different.

So, as the days grow shorter think of autumn as the beginning, plan ahead and you’ll have colour right through to spring.

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