Visit Nags Hall Nursery in Godstone, the original Knights Garden Centre
- Credit: Leigh Clapp
Enjoy the autumnal colour at Nags Hall Garden Centre in Godstone with late-season flowers, glowing foliage and bright berries. Leigh Clapp takes us on a tour...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2015
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Need to know
Nags Hall Nursery, Oxted Road, Godstone RH9 8DB
Tel: 01883 742275
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Autumn colour brings a new dimension to the garden, whether the season is one of mists and quiet beauty or intensely rich colours set against clear blue skies. Although leaf colour is greatest when the days are sunny and the nights frosty, by selecting a wide range of plants on different levels, you can ensure a final crescendo of colour as the season draws to an end.
Now is a great time to explore your local garden centre for autumn colour options to add to your garden, so today I’ve popped along to Nags Hall in Godstone, the original Knights Garden Centre, to see what’s on offer at this time of the year. This family-run business, which also has another branch just down the road, Ivy Mill, and one in Betchworth, has been going since the 1970s, so what they don’t know about gardening isn’t worth knowing.
“Autumn is nature’s time for planting,” says plant care manager, Steve Reynolds, as we wander the array of neatly-ordered rows and potted displays. “The warm, moist soil is perfect for planting and establishing trees and shrubs.
“People see leaves discolouring and don’t tend to think ahead or realise that you actually get a better established plant in autumn rather than planting in the spring.”
Wandering around, you can’t fail to be inspired, with seasonal colour everywhere you look – from brightly-coloured foliage to shining berries. Whether you’d like to augment existing deciduous colour in your garden, add a spectacular specimen tree or plan an autumnal display, perusing the rows and rows of possible choices is a great way to hone your ideas.
“We have a slightly different range of liquidambars this year that are ideal for a smaller garden, such as the aptly-named ‘Slender Silhouette’,” says Steve, when asked for his own recommendations. “And we also do a range of different berries – such as pyracanthas, or firethorn as it is appropriately known; sorbus in pinks, reds, yellow and white; as well as purple callicarpa, which are always popular.”
Going to pot
In addition to the range of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and fruit trees, there are displays of bedding plants and also containers brimming with flowering plants – the perfect way to add some seasonal colour by the door. “We do a wide range of containers, with different colours, foliage and plant choices grouped within,” continues Steve. “Some we buy in ready-planted, others we do ourselves in the nursery.”
Continuing on our tour, iridescent cyclamen shimmer in the low autumn sunshine, ornamental kale and shiny gaultheria fruit draw the eye, as do the cheery faces of tiny pansies. Plants tend to be grouped together, but don’t be afraid to lift pots off the benches and see how they look combined.
Also, keep in mind that as the plants won’t grow much while dormant, you can pack them into a container for a stunning display that will last through autumn and winter. Just remember to deadhead regularly to keep flowers blooming as long as possible.
“In our own displays, we also under-plant with spring bulbs, so that once the flush is finished they pop up through the foliage,” adds Steve.
When designing your containers, start in the centre with a statement evergreen, such as a dwarf conifer, ornamental carex grass or a cordyline, then fill in the space according to your preferred colour combination; you may want warm, fiery tones, burgundies or perhaps cool whites. Containers allow you to have fun making a mini-garden with colours and combinations that you may not be brave enough to use across the whole garden – which is what adds to the appeal.
“Try something a bit unusual with bright berries, such as crimson gaultheria or orange solanum” says Steve. “They make a lovely splash of colour at this time of year.”
So, head out into the crisp autumnal air and see what you can discover at your local garden centre to give your garden a seasonal facelift.
Get the look: our top 10 autumn choices
• Acer (flaming golds and reds)
• Cornus (autumn colour, winter stems)
• Cotinus (purple to red foliage)
• Crataegus (coloured foliage and red berries)
• Euonymus (crimson foliage, hanging lobed fruits)
• Hamamelis (colouring leaves, scented winter flowers)
• Liquidambar (maple-like leaves of golds, purples and crimson)
• Malus (coloured foliage and shiny crabapple fruits)
• Sorbus (pendulous clusters of berries)
• Viburnum (glossy berries)
Top planting tips
• The best time to plant trees, shrubs and bare-rooted herbaceous plants is between now and Christmas
• Check that the mature size is suitable for your space
• Also consider the mature shape – some are broad, some narrow
• Colour co-ordinate against your evergreens
• Remember to check on the soil needs first
• Many offer foliage, flowers, fruit and bark for year-round interest
Autumn container options...
• Statement evergreens include conifers, cordylines, grasses, buxus and bay
• Flower choices include chrysanthemums in an array of warm tones, from pink, through yellow and orange to scarlet, cyclamen, pansies, heather, hellebores and Bellis perennis
• Fillers include ornamental kale, solanum, gaultheria, sedum, trailing ivy, artemesia and skimmia
TOP TIP: Also plant bulbs to grow through in the spring, such as crocus, narcissi, muscari and iris