By Elly West, a garden designer.

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It might be the end of summer, but there’s still a riot of colour to look forward to, with colder weather bringing new treasures in the form of berries, fruits, stems and autumn leaves. Gone are the soft pastels and gentle shades of spring and summer, and instead we have strong and vibrant reds, russets and oranges to illuminate the shorter days. That’s why I think every garden, no matter what its size, should have a tree chosen particularly for autumn colour. A tree brings height, structure and a feeling of permanence. It can also add privacy, screen an eyesore and provide somewhere to hang a bird feeder, fairy lights or even a hammock.

Trees with great colour and that are suitable for the average garden include acers, rowan, amalanchier, cornus and sumach. But it’s not just trees that put on fiery displays – shrubs such as berberis, Euonymus alataus (also known as burning bush) and spirea are also spectacular at this time of year. 

The colours of autumn are actually in the leaves all year round, hidden by green chlorophyll. As the days shorten and chlorophyll production slows down and stops, that’s when the green fades and the colours beneath are revealed.

Mid-to-late October is the best time to see autumn colour in the UK. Stourhead in Wiltshire or Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire are well worth the drive this month if you fancy kicking through the leaves and admiring the landscape.

Plant of the month

Virginia creeper comes into its element in autumn with a practically unrivalled fanfare of glowing red leaves. It needs a strong support to grow up, such as the side of a house, and is self-clinging, although it may need support when small. This vigorous grower is a chimney reacher, so you’ll need to prune it to keep it in its bounds. This is best done in autumn or early winter. Pay particular attention if it’s encroaching on windows, gutters or roofs, as it will happily romp away if left unchecked. It grows well in sun or shade and has inconspicuous greenish flowers in summer that are attractive to bees and hoverflies.