Golden clematis seed heads: ‘Beautiful but vigorous.’ Photograph: Paul Thompson/Alamy
Autumn‘s a bit like a hangover: exhausted after the exuberance of summer, the garden enters its phase of rest looking bedraggled. Leaves brown and drop, things begin to rot and spiders coat everything with webs. To cheer the scene, nothing complements autumn’s copper tones better than a blaze of yellow flowers.
Helenium ‘Butterpat’. Photograph: Holmes Garden Photos/Alamy
One of the cheeriest late-bloomers, Helenium ‘Butterpat’ has bright yellow, daisy-like flowers. As long as there is some moisture in the ground, it is very easy to grow.
TLC ‘Butterpat’ insists on full sun and damp, well-drained soil. Dig in compost and fertiliser (such as blood, fish and bone) on planting, and mulch with compost in spring. It is prone to drunken leaning, so support with hazel sticks or bamboo canes.
Plant with… The browning seedheads of spent perennials, such as Eryngium ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’, and grasses, such as Stipa calamagrostis and Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Dauerstrahl’.
Height and spread 90cm x 40cm.
Buy from Harveys Garden Plants.
Red-hot poker ‘Bees’ Lemon’
Kniphofia ‘Bees’ Lemon’. Photograph: Howard Rice/Getty
Orange red-hot pokers remind me of the 1980s, but this yellow cultivar of kniphofia is refreshingly modern. Its torch flowers are a luminous shade of lemon, capped with lime green.
TLC Kniphofias like a moist but well-drained soil in full sun. If you’re not on sandy soil, dig the area deeply, then mix in plenty of compost and grit. During winter, protect young plants with straw.
Plant with… Other bold perennials, such as Penstemon ‘Raven’ (which has purple flowers), Sedum ‘Matrona’ (which has burgundy foliage) and chrysanthemums, such as the lime green ‘Shamrock’ and the magenta ‘Regal Mist Purple’. Or, for a softer look, pair it with the golden tones of grasses.
Height and spread 80cm x 50cm.
Buy from Cath’s Garden Plants.
Golden clematis (Clematis tangutica). Photograph: Yon Marsh Pipdesigns/Alamy
The autumn garden isn’t complete without the climber Clematis tangutica, whose lantern-shaped flowers resemble strips of lemon peel. The cultivars ‘Bill MacKenzie’ and ‘Lambton Park’ are beautiful but vigorous; if you have a small garden, go for ‘Helios’, which is compact enough to grow in a pot. All produce silvery seedheads, which look magical dusted with frost.
TLC Position in full sun or semi-shade, in neutral soil. Dig in compost and fertiliser on planting. In early spring, prune and scatter a mulch of compost around the plant (without touching its stems).
Plant through… A large shrub or small tree that doesn’t do anything interesting in the autumn: a laburnum, for instance. Alternatively, let C. tangutica cover a dull fence or shed.
Height and spread 4m x 3m.
Buy from Taylors Clematis.
Aster linosyris. Photograph: Nature Photographers Ltd/Alamy
Aster linosyris is a rare native perennial that produces sprays of delicate flowers, so it blends into a border well and has about it something of the cottage garden. The flowerheads are fluffy pompoms, rather than the daisy-esque blooms of most other asters, and it has fine, needle leaves.
TLC As it is a native, you can pretty much put this in the ground and let it get on with it. But it must have full sun and a well-drained soil. If you’re on clay, dig in compost and grit when planting.
Plant with… The cream Achillea ‘Mondpagode’, which flowers into October, and Helenium ‘Wyndley’, which produces rusty-yellow blooms.
Height and spread 70cm x 30cm.
Buy from Binny Plants.
Yellow toad lily
The toad lily (Tricyrtis ohsumiensis). Photograph: Dorling Kindersley/Getty
It seems wrong to call the beautiful Tricyrtis ohsumiensis a toad lily, but that’s what it is. In late summer and autumn, it produces flowers that look far too exotic to be in a chilly British garden: butter-yellow, speckled, star-shaped blooms that resemble orchids.
TLC Toad lilies love damp semi-shade and an acid to neutral soil that drains well. Add leaf mould or compost on planting and, if you’re on clay, dig in plenty of grit. They are happy in containers if watered regularly.
Plant beneath… Deciduous trees, because the yellow flowers contrast well with the copper leaves when they fall. Alternatively, position among the browning fronds of ferns and Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, whose leaves blush burgundy in autumn.
Height and spread 40cm x 25cm.
Buy from Crûg Farm Plants.
Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle’
Rudbeckia ‘Goldquelle’. Photograph: John Martin /Alamy
Instead of the large, daisy-like flowers of most rudbeckias, this laciniata cultivar produces shaggy ruffles.
TLC Plant in a rich, well-drained soil. Dig in organic matter and fertiliser on planting and, if you’re on clay, add some grit. Provide the plant with support to grow through by erecting a scaffolding of sticks (such as hazel) over it in late spring.
Plant with… The burning orange Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’ and dahlias, some of which have a similar flower shape: Dahlia ‘Summer Night’ has port-wine blooms; and ‘Bishop of Auckland’ is crimson. ‘Goldquelle’ also looks great with grasses, such as Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ and Molinia caerulea subsp. ‘Heidebraut’.
Height and spread 1.2m x 50cm.
Buy from Crocus.