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Autumn in the Garden

By Matt Collins, Garden Museum Head Gardener

As for many gardeners/outdoorsy people, autumn is my favourite season: amazing colours, late perennial flowers, cooler temperatures and peak garden jumper territory. That was, I should say, until I began gardening at the Garden Museum, where an onslaught of seasonal leaf fall from our enormous plane trees keeps the garden team raking away right through to Christmas! But thankfully there’s still time to carry out the more important autumnal tasks: mulching borders, collecting seeds, cutting back spent stems of perennials like lavender, geranium and helenium, and planning for next year’s display. This is the time to get bulbs ordered (for us that means tulips, daffodils, snowdrops and muscari), hardy annuals sown and cut-flower seeds ordered for spring.

Our courtyard garden, which is stuffed with leafy subtropical plants, tends to ignore autumn for as long as it can, growing on until colder temperatures finally knock it to the ground. (Last year our Canna x ehemanii grew to a staggering 3.5 meters before the frost put a stop to its skyward bolt). This means my attention can briefly return to our indoor plants; repotting those which have grown too large for their containers, refreshing their soil and deadheading flowers. So I thought I’d share three indoor plants from our collection that have been particular stars this year – plants that perform well in most household conditions.

Recommended Plants: Three indoor favourites to try this autumn


Begonia ‘Thurstonii’

Begonias may have had their heyday in the 80s, showing off flamboyant leaves beside cocktail cabinets and velvet curtains in city apartments, but they’re definitely back in fashion. We’ve been growing Begonia ‘Thurstonii’ at the museum all year, a fantastic shrubby cultivar with deep green, glossy leaves and pink flowers. I highly recommend this one for its impressive size and colour. If it gets too big you can simply hack it back without any repercussions.


Asparagus myriocladus

Few houseplants are as ridiculously popular these days as the South African asparagus fern. So I recommend breaking the mould and trying out Asparagus myriocladus, a species I picked out this year from a seller at the Garden Museum’s annual Spring Plant Fair. Its stems have a similar feathery-ness to the common species, only they are surrounded with soft, springy needles arranged in whorls, and each new shoot begins in bright acid-green before settling down to a deeper hue. Very lovely.


Tradescantia zebrina

We’ve been propagating lots of our tradescantia species collection recently, and have begun selling them in simple, attractive pots in the museum shop. Much like begonias, tradescantia are returning to popularity again, in part due to rising houseplant interest, but also because they’re just so easy to grow! While there are lots of varieties to try out, like T. ‘Quicksilver’ for its variegated leaves or T. sillamontana which has little, three-petalled pink blooms, you just can’t beat Tradescantia zebrina: shiny leaves with a ‘zebra’ print, and an astonishing rate of growth.