Search for autumn colour online and plants such as cornus, hornbeam, witch hazel and, of course, acers are garden writers' recommendations. But talk to Barry Porter of Porters Foliage, and he will dismiss these suggestions with a wholesaler's wave of the hand as complete non-starters for floristry purposes.
"Hornbeam and cornus drop their leaves very quickly. Witch hazel is commercially grown for its winter buds, not for its leaves, which drop too quickly anyway." Ah……that's me told!
So what seasonal products are around for florists at this time of year? Flower Market foliage experts GB Foliage and Porters are, as always, a mine of information on fabulous foliage finds for florists.
Oak is one of the best options for autumn colour that will last. Ageing through the stages from green to yellow, red and rich brown, magnificent branches of oak in leaf and acorns adorn Foliage Row between Doors 4 and 5.
Beech, euonymous and cotinus too offer wonderful rich colour variations and hold their leaves beautifully for designs that will keep. And how about eucalyptus stuartiana with its slender stems, small, circular leaves in shades from autumnal yellow to rich, pinky-red tones?
Whilst acers hold their autumn leaves well, they are too slow-growing for commercial production. Just occasionally, though, an exquisite batch will make a guest appearance at the Flower Market, cut from grand English estates, and be instantly snapped up by early-bird florists.
As Halloween approaches, think pumpkins! Amidst the decorative, extraordinary stock on Foliage Row, there is a size and shade of squash to add a deliciously autumnal flavour to your designs. Add the reds and greens of crab apples and you have the ingredients for an autumnal feast.
Autumn is one of those rare times where GB Foliage and Porters stray into the realms of the flower wholesalers with the most spectacular bunches of hydrangeas in the mixed pinks and purples of autumn. These are not hydrangeas grown under glass for purity of colour; these beauties are grown outdoors and are in hot demand for more naturalistic designs.
Look out too for the unmistakable purple berries on the woody branches of callicarpa; the rich red berries of viburnum opulus; the scarlet-red berries of the evergreen cotoneaster; and red rosehips in varying sizes from growers in Italy, France and Germany.
So, if you are in need of a little seasonal inspiration now that the nights are drawing in, why not pop down to Flower Market's Foliage Row early one morning and cook up an autumnal floral feast for the eyes? Take a look at the designs created by some of our Flower Market Florists for autumn, and tell us below about your favourite autumn floristry foliage.