AUTUMN colour in the garden is a little and large show.

Aloft, the colour comes from vibrant field maples, the more subdued gold of the native oak and that most ancient of species, Gingko biloba.

I have visited this unique tree before in the statuesque form, probably the biggest of its kind on the Isle of Wight, in the beer garden of The Railway pub in Ryde, a tree reputed to have been brought back to this country from its native China.

Before its leaves were stripped by recent gales, this tree looked glorious. Although vastly impressive, it is dwarfed by the oldest and most extraordinary tree in Kew Gardens, which I visit whenever I can.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Gingko biloba at The Railway pub in Ryde.

Commonly known as the maidenhair tree, it was planted there in 1762. Although the maidenhair tree is as old as the gardens themselves, it’s a baby in terms of the lifespan of the species.

The oldest recorded maidenhair tree, so-called because of the unique way leaves sprout from the branches, is 3,500 years old. But do not be put off. Great beauty does not exclusively come with old age.

Plant a Gingko today and it may remain smallish for many years, but at eye level and above it will be a tree of great beauty, tolerant of a wide range of conditions.

On the ground, bulbs provide the autumn and winter colour. Autumn crocus can be ruined by wet weather so plant them beneath trees and shrubs for protection.

Nerines are not to everyone’s taste — showy and pretty in pink, I think. Nerine bowdenii is perfectly hardy in the UK, despite its South African origins.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Nerines are pretty in pink.

Sternbergia resemble crocus and are excellent for sprinkling in rockeries. These hardy bulbs look especially fine in large naturalised groups in poor, well-drained, soil for a big impact in a sunny spot.

Cyclamen hederifolium brightens those shady, impoverished, spaces beneath trees. Its silvery, marbled leaves follow the dazzling pink, white or red blooms.

Cyclamen coum follows its autumn flowering cousin. Braving the cold winter weather it pops up in mainland UK from January, earlier here. Down here of the Isle of Wight, a tad earlier.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Cyclamen coum does well in winter.

Looking forward to the even darker days the Winter Aconite’s golden, cup-shaped flowers surrounded by a ruff of leaves bring brightness.

Looking just like a winter buttercup it loves a moist soil and a shady position, perfect for under-planting among woodland trees. They look best grown in bold drifts where they can be left undisturbed to die back naturally in spring.

Snowdrops? There are so many to choose from, just ask a galanthophile, who will pay a king’s ransom for a single rare bulb.

Try Galanthus elwesii or Galanthus Woronowi, both giant(well, big in snowdrop terms) white snowdrops with green markings. Both have honey scented flowers appearing as early as January.

Galanthus nivalis Flore Pleno, is a double flowered variety.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Snowdrops are one of Richard's favourites.

A technique for creating a natural-looking snowdrop drift is to gently cast the bulbs across the planting area and pop them in where they fall.

Snowdrops are a personal favourite, deserving to be studied on hands and knees, blooms gently tilted back.

Many varieties are shy, hiding much of their beauty by staring - and nodding, sagely - at the ground.


  • Ventilate the greenhouse on warmer days to reduce humidity and the risk of disease.
  • Work in some well-rotted manure to greenhouse borders to prepare them for next spring. Take out some of the old soil first to leave enough space to add fresh compost later on.
  • Propagate perennials from root cuttings including phlox, oriental poppies and mint.
  • Water plants sparingly to maintain as dry an atmosphere as possible.
  • Strawberry plants tend to lose productivity after three years, or so. Add some new blood to your bed.
  • Construct a screen of clear polythene over wall-trained peaches and nectarines to protect them from wet winter weather which spreads the peach leaf curl fungus.
  • Cover winter brassicas with netting to protect them from pigeons.
  • Keep fleece to hand to protect hardy salad crops such as Winter Gem lettuce, land cress and lamb’s lettuce on cold nights.

Are you an Isle of Wight gardener with a question for Richard? You can email him on