Guest Blog: Sarah Pajwani – 5 Thoughts To Create A Garden That’s Ablaze With Autumn Colour

Last year, readers of The English Garden magazine voted for their favourite National Garden Scheme garden.  The Nation’s Favourite Garden competition featured seven regional categories, each one including a small selection of some of the country’s best loved National Garden Scheme gardens.

St Timothee in Berkshire was voted regional winner in the South East category as well as being named the competition’s Overall Winner.

St Timothee is a two acre garden specifically planted for year-round interest that owner and keen gardener Sarah Pajwani has lovingly developed for over 15 years.

We are delighted to share Sarah’s blog with you this week, featuring her thoughts on how to create a garden that’s bursting with autumnal colour.

Autumn can be something of a forgotten season in the garden with attention focussed more on bulb planting for glorious Spring displays or planting to improve the following summer.

But, with a little planning, autumn can be one of the most colourful and exciting times of all to enjoy just for itself.

Here are five thoughts that give my garden at St Timothee in Berkshire colour right through autumn.

Thought 1 : Dial up reds and yellows

When I think of autumn, I think of walks in woods and of yellows, oranges, reds and browns – but rich, warm and mellow so more saffron, sienna, crimson and russet. These are the colours I try to include in my planting.  There are usually plenty of browns from decaying perennials and lots of green from the grass but dialling up the reds and yellows gives energy and impact to the borders.

And the biggest colour impact in my garden comes from some amazing shrubs – all of which are fast growing and reliably hardy, tough plants.

a) Cotinus Coggygria Royal Purple – purple foliage in Summer which turns a fiery, deep red in November.

b) Cornuses. Loved for their vibrant, bare stem brilliance in winter, they in fact start their performance in autumn with red stemmed Cornus Alba Sibirica turning a wonderful mix of colours from green through yellow to a deep wine red.

c) Probably my favourite shrub of all is the wonderful Cornus Midwinter Fire. Bright lime green foliage throughout summer that turns a glorious butter yellow from late September and often lasts right until the end of November.

Below left to right: Cotinus Coggygria Royal Purple, Cornus Alba Sibirica, Cornus Midwinter Fire

d) Cotoneaster Horizontalis. With bright red berries in September, changing jewel-like leaf colour in October before its final fling of fiery red foliage in November, there are not many shrubs that give so much.

Below, left to right: Cotoneaster Horizontalis in September, then October and finally in November.

Thought 2 : Repeat what works

Not only does it make life a good deal easier by repeating plants that like your soil and conditions, but it gives a sense of cohesion to the garden and helps draw the eye on and around your space.

All of the above shrubs I use many, many times. In the circular beds I call ‘The Big Circle, I have six of these Cotinus  – hard to capture all six in a photo but three just about visible here – their rich red colour offset by the green of the lawn and the turning foliage of the towering Oak tree above.

With Cornus MidWinterFire, I’ve used it en masse as a hedge to become the backdrop for two island beds.  Shown here on the gloomiest, foggy November day, it still provides that much needed lift and counter to the browns and russets of decaying perennials.

And if you follow these two Cotoneasters up that right hand path, they lead onto yet another mass of fiery red.

Thought 3 : Echo colours at different levels

In this view, my eye is drawn to the fiery red of the Cotinus at the far back but it’s helped towards this by several other spots of russet and most notably by Heuchera Chocolate Ruffles, a valuable front-of-border evergreen that lines part of the curved path.

Echoing colours at different levels with different plants is another way to give cohesion and balance and to lead your eye around the garden.

Thought 4 : Contrast red and yellow for maximum impact

Where the Big Circle border meets the Midwinter Fire borders, the fiery red of the Cotinus is backed by the bright yellow of the Cornus.

By late November, when most of the trees have lost all their foliage, this combination brings some much needed vibrancy and warmth.

Thought 5 : Plant scenes

My main concern in the garden is to look at something I see as pleasing.  I don’t use many unusual plants.  Instead I rely on the mix of colours, shapes, textures and layers to form what I see as pleasing scenes.

Four massive Pampas (three visible here and a fourth to the far left) form a dramatic backdrop to the pond.  They help lift the eye to the trees and to the beautiful butter yellow of the Liriodendrum Tulip tree.

The colour of the tree is then echoed lower down by the line of yellow from the Cornus Midwinter Fire hedge.  So in this scene I’ve dialled up the yellow with the Cornus, repeated both the Pampas and the Cornus and echoed colour at different levels.

I hope this gives an idea of some of the plants and planting that I love in my garden in autumn. For any keen gardener, it feels a shame not to be trying to squeeze joy from every day and every season.

St Timothee garden is a garden planted for year-round interest and opens regularly for the National Garden Scheme.

Talk and Walk events are planned for January 12 and March 16 with booking available nearer the time at

And you can see weekly posts and views of the garden by following SarahPajwani on Instagram.

Has Sarah inspired you?

We love what Sarah has achieved at St Timothee.

If Sarah’s blog has inspired you, why not have a look at our extensive range of Home and Garden designs.

Our water features, planters, statuary, bird bath and tables, sundials and garden furniture bring structure, interest and elegance to any outside space.

Available in classical, traditional and contemporary styles, there are products to suit every taste.

Shop range

Speak to our team

Whether you’re working on a private residential or large commercial project, or if you are interested in home and garden products, our friendly and expert team are happy to discuss your requirements.

  Request a call back