The season is most definitely changing, and I’m invigorated once again. Whereas many people love a particular season, I love the change, that feeling in the air that something is afoot. Cool mornings and sunny days spell the onset of autumn, and it’s easy to tell from the flora and fauna around us that the next season is almost here. Miniscule garden spiders (Araneus diadematus) have grown to gargantuan sizes, hanging fresh webs out everyday to catch the flies and droplets of morning dew. Rubeckia and echinacea flower heads are turning to seed strewn pin cushions. Fruits and berries on cotoneasters, pyracantha and callicarpa (left) begin to ripen, to let their deep hues shine brightly to attract those eager beaks required to spread their seed.
I have to admit, my garden has gone rather wayward this year. A dismal year of droughts and downpours, a onslaught of slugs and snails to biblical proportions and my disabled cat hauling himself around the garden has left my plants in a sorry state. Hosta’s are now mere stumps, montbretia has become a cat cushion, dahlias that I didn’t plant out for fear of molluscs remain stunted in their pots. However, the changing of the season has once again invigorated me to get out into my own patch and start gardening with renewed passion.
It’s at this time of year, when things start to be cut back, that I was start considering design changes and garden additions. Now is the ideal time to invest in a little bit of storage, and there are a wide variety of garden sheds at Argos which are ideal. Not only am I a plant hoarder, but I’m also a plant pot hoarder. At this time of year, when the garden begins to be cleared ahead of the winter and pots need scrubbing, cleaning and stacking, taking the time to sort out those multitude of containers will stand you in good stead for next year. And, with my garage crammed already, the additional of small potting shed is most definitely on my wish list.
I’m also preparing to bring some of the large pots out of storage and plant them up with winter violas and pansies to bring a little life to the winter garden. Meanwhile, with the dogwood (cornus, right) having grown to epic proportions, I’m going to cut it down to size and use the trimmed branches to create some vibrant red wigwams for the winter. I’ve done this before, and with any luck some of them will even root and give me new plants next year. You can simply use some of the stems as struts in your winter baskets, or create little tipi’s that will catch the frost and snow.
This year may have been a little dismal in my gardening, with the weather having had a huge impact on how things have, and haven’t, grown. But, with the change of the season I’m inspired to see what autumn brings, and am already looking forward with hope that 2013 will bring weather than gardeners will be able to revel in.
Britain’s currently in the midst of the hottest weather it’s had all summer, so mentioning Christmas might bring horror to your ears. However, as honeysuckles scramble upwards, lavender bustles with bees and heleniums throw up bud after bud to the brazen sun, us gardeners need to start thinking about the looming seasons and what’s to come. Gardening, after all, is all about forethought and planning what delicate foliage, flowers and berries will catch our eyes as the month’s progress.
At this time of year, whilst taking every care to keep plants watered and deadheaded, it’s time to consider making your winter garden as colourful as possible. There are many ideal plants for the colder times of year, and I like to utilise pots to make the best show. My garden is largely herbaceous, so come the winter months my plants have, for the most part, receded underground to protect themselves until warmer climes arrive again. Planting into the border on top of existing perennials isn’t always the best idea, so I like to utilise a variety of planters and containers around the garden, drawing the eye from one spot of colour to the next.
Topiary is great in gardens all year round, but I really feel that it comes into its own during the winter, especially on those frosty and misty mornings when tendrils of ice cling to spheres, cones or decadently created topiary peacocks. Whilst everything around them is dull, dead or hidden underground, topiary can shine during the winter, bringing a much needed vitality to the garden. Rattan or wooden planters (as shown to the left) are great for keeping topiary, and it means that you can move these living sculptures around the garden throughout the year, ensuring that they’re in the best place to catch your glance. This is particularly important during the winter months when strategically placed pots and containers will draw the eye from one burst of colour to the next.
Though you can have topiary planted on its own, I like to under-plant with a swath of winter flowering pansies to add a clash of colour. Even when wilted on freezing mornings, these plants show their true hardiness as the day progresses and the sun comes up, shedding the ice crystals and bursting into colourful life to add a little flair to any wintery spot. You can buy plug plants now and start growing them on, but it’s not too late to grow your winter flowering stock from seed, ensuring that you have great mounds of colour throughout the drabbest months of the year.
If you’ve had windowsill overflowing with geraniums or lavender this summer (right), then you should also start to think about upcoming planting schemes for winter. Vine weevils have plagued me inEast London, and attempting to grow cyclamen in flowerbeds only serves to feed these pests even more. However, fresh compost and a planter do wonders for keeping these plants thriving. I like to interplant miniature cyclamen with heucheras to provide a welcome mix of hues. Heucheras are one of the my favourite plants for foliage, and they come in a great range of colours, so whether you’re planting out cyclamen of blood red, snowy white or soft pink, there’s always an ideal heuchera to set it off against.
With the summer sun still high, it can be a bit depressing to already be thinking of winter and what’s to come. But, by taking advantage of the warmer season to grow some winter plants and prepare some seasonal planters, you’ll be able to bring some cheering colour to the crisp white days ahead. Garden Trading has a fantastic variety of planters on offer, with something for everyone’s price range, so there’s no need for your winter garden to look drab and dreary this year.
With trees resigned to the fact that autumn is indeed here and the time for dropping leaves has arrived, I’m now knee deep in foliage wherever I go. It’s an iconic time of year – kicking rustling piles of leaves through the streets, watching a leaf plucked from it’s branch spiral towards the ground, seeing the vivid greens of summer change to fiery reds, yellows and oranges.
I don’t actually mind clearing leaves as there’s always something calming about gently raking or sweeping piles of foliage together before bundling it into bags. If your council is like mine then they’ve irrationally stopped green waste collections at probably the worst time of year, and you’ve got more bags than you know what to do with. A few leaves can remain on beds where the worms will pull them down into the soil, but the majority of lawn and border material should be collected. The compost is climbing towards the sky, there’s more garden waste every day and there’s only so much pruned planting that you can handle. However, there’s a great way to utilise your trees dispelled leaves and that’s by making some nutrient rich leaf mulch for next year.
Making leaf mulch really couldn’t be simpler, and you can do it even if you don’t have a compost heap which is a huge bonus to many people. I always try and make at least three or four bags of the stuff at each clients house as it’s a great cost saving method of getting nutrient rich compost for your plants next year without having to head to the garden centre and stock up on feed. All you need do is pile leaves into black bin liners, tie them shut and leave them for six months or so. Try to ensure that leaves are moist as, if they’re bone dry like my first attempts years ago, you’ll unwrap them next spring to discover, well, dry leaves. If however they’re slightly moist the bacteria present on the foliage will rot the leaves down in their closed environment, offering you a beautiful and loamy mulch to use on borders and pots next year.
If you can’t handle the rising tide of leaves and your council have unhelpfully left you collection-less, then a few moments is all it takes to start the free compost creating cycle. And in six months time you’ll already be benefiting from this years tree drop off.
Autumn is certainly a time when us gardeners are looking towards closing down the garden for the winter and starting to let those planting plans for next year formulate in our heads. With so much work to do throughout the year I rarely get a chance, or remember, to take cuttings of softwood and tender perennials which may not make the winter months. However, though you may think that autumn is too late, you can still take cuttings from those plants which you want to have a few safeguards in place should you lose the main plant.
Autumn isn’t the best time to take cuttings, and you’ll generally find that roots take longer to develop. It also won’t work if you intend trying to propagate in a cold greenhouse. But, if you have warm windowsills like me and want to make a last ditched attempt at creating more fabulous plants, then, in my eyes, it’s never too late (unless of course there’s a foot of snow on top of your beloved plant and it’s well and truly dead – at that point no amount of cuttings in the world are going to revive it).
The past day I’ve been pottering around the garden taking a few begonia, osteospermum, verbena and erysimum cuttings. The latter plants do often survive the winter without much hassle, but I do find that they get extremely leggy during their extensive flowering season and, in a wild departure from the norm for me, I tend to rip up plants annually and replace them with fresh propagated individuals.
Tender perennial cuttings are very easy to take, and all you need do is take a section of plant several inches long, make a sharp cut above a leaf node, strip of the bottom most leaves, nip out growing tips especially if they have buds developing, and plunge into an appropriate soil. Rather than faffing around with plastic bags and rubber bands, I’ve found that zip-lock bags are the ideal tool and make looking after cuttings very easy. You can simply open the bag a couple of days per week to allow leaves to breathe and for a quick maintenance check to remove drying or mouldy vegetation. Pop onto a warm windowsill and you have a plant making factory in you very own home. And come next year, whether you have heavy snow and fatal frosts or not, you’ll have plenty of plants to restock your borders with.
You may think it a funny time of year to talk about seedlings. Winter’s on the way and so the time when many gardeners are thinking about sowing and germinating tiny new seeds has long since passed. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have teems of tiny plants which you’ve been growing on throughout the year. I’ve been paying much more attention to these plants than ever before as, whilst I’m pretty good at germinating flora, I’m not that great at maturing plants. I tend to forget a days watering, not get around to potting up quickly enough, or simply pop them into a border too early where they’re either quickly devoured by slugs or smothered by other more virulent specimens.
I’m often amazed at the germination successes of some things that seem like they should be hard. The first time I grew strawberries I was amazed. I mean, this scrumptious fruit which seems as if it should be near impossible to grow actually proliferates like weeds.
This year, after having scoured local sources for echiums and failed to find any I thought ‘I’ll have a crack at them’. I planted six seeds and now I have four healthy and thriving plants. I’m amazed. Growing echiums from the germination, through to potting up has thus far actually been incredibly easy, and I simply sowed the seeds into a multi purpose compost, put them in a sunny position and kept the soil moist. I’m going to keep them inside all winter in an attempt to get them through the bitterly cold months without losing them like I did my last one.
I also had it in my head that Heucheras would be incredibly difficult to germinate and grow but, as with the echiums, growing heucheras from seed actually seems to be very easy. They’ll obviously take a while to mature but like the echiums they were sown in a multi purpose soil, pricked out as soon as they were about an inch high and had dead leaves removed immediately to take away the chance of mould infecting plants. I have a load of little seedlings which I’ll grow on in pots and I’m pretty proud of my collection.
Of course, growing plants from seeds seems to be different for everyone. Try as I may, my luck with echinacea isn’t great. They germinate quickly but then I lose the resulting seedlings, whilst the ones I threw into a pot at my clients and hardly look at, thrive. Lavender has failed two years running, and growing California poppies in trays continues to be a headache for me – I just haven’t cracked it yet. With the latter in mind, this time of year is ideal to get ahead of next years annuals and germinate some California poppies, honesty and cornflower seeds. As long as keep these in a frost free place over the winter you’ll have numerous plants to flower a little earlier next year. And for gardeners like me, who always like to have a few seedlings popping into new life, the approach of winter does not signal a t ime to stop sowing.
It’s autumn and whilst Britain may have been enjoying a last minute heat wave before the snow and cold of winter descends, I was across the pond taking in the beautiful sights of Toronto. At this time of year there’s a constant battle going on between gardener and garden. As the first frosts start to glisten in the countryside the decision of when to pull out the summer bedding and put in the autumn and winter plants starts to rear its head. In my own green space I tend to let a heavy frost kill off signal the time to pull up plants as I simply can’t bear to remove annuals which still seem to be thriving. Plus, the lightly frost tinged petals of fading blooms is a stunning sight to behold, and one which can easily be missed if you pull out plants too early.
Planters utilised by lake front Hotels
Whilst Britain may indeed be a temperate zone with frosts arriving incredibly early or late depending on the year, Toronto doesn’t escape quite that easily. With September signalling a change in the air as the snow and ferocious temperatures signal the onset of winter, summer planting doesn’t stand a chance. However, as a stop gap between summer and festive planting, cabbages seem to be used here to good effect, bolstering planters and borders to ensure that greenery continues to shine through.
Toronto is a city of greenery, with trees, planters and gardens wherever you look. Though I’ve never really been a fan of ornamental cabbage use, I can certainly see its advantages here. They’ll stand up to frost, you can get a variety of blushed and hued varieties to add something more than simple green, and they’ll plug the gaps left by summer bedding. And, if you’re doing it on a domestic level, you’ll even be able to harvest some food right from your doorstep planter when the temperatures plummet to -10°C and you can’t face scurrying to the grocers. So, I use the ‘City of Cabbages’ as an affectionate and inspired name, and perhaps here, in our own British backyards, a few cabbage planters won’t go amiss for our upcoming snow covered season.
With my trip to RHS Wisley last week certainly bring the autumn into touch with vibrant force I’ve been enjoying the crisper nights and cooler breezes as the season changes. Though summer may be over, the garden is absolutely full of life at this time of the year, and until the heavy frosts later in the season arrive, everything will be doing its best to get the last flowers of the months in.
I always plant my marigolds late so that they’re coming into force at this time of year, spreading vibrant orange through the fern patch along with the soft pink shades of geranium A.T Johnson. Situated at the bottom of the garden they draw the eye along the path, making my smaller patch seem that little bit larger. Newer additions to the garden are thriving too, with beautiful toad lily’s extending architecturally great blooms dotted in magnificent colour in the shady areas. It may be blustery, sweeping all fragrance away in an instant, but Lime Green Nicotiana is offering subtle shape and hues. A plant often overlooked, the gorgeous smell and soft greens are wonderful, especially in the moonlight, and next year I’m intending to maximise on these specimens to make the most of their glory.
Shades of autumn are already appearing too, with rudbekia Chocolate Orange offering burnt red and yellow tones. I only sowed these seeds earlier this year and should have probably cut off the flower to promote root growth, but with so many seedlings my curiosity and intrigue go the better of me and allowed the single bloom to develop. Iridescent Callicarpa berries are starting to ripen from their pale green to the vivid purple which will always catch the eye (and beak of tiny blackcaps if last winter is anything to go by) of passers by.
Sedums, laden down with clusters of minute flowers are opening their buds to the eager tongues of autumn insects, and amongst the foliage of dewy mornings, Araneus diadematus spins a new web for the day, hoping to gorge herself on dozy wasps not minding their way. Autumn is here but the garden is anything less than vibrant. And with life apprehensive about the months to come, there is never a time more full of the hustle and bustle of garden goings on.
One of my favourite times of the year is September. The waning summer gives rise to dewy lawns, a touch of a soft chill even when the sun shines strongly, and a breeze which is so subtle in its difference that you can’t quite touch upon why you know autumn is coming. Whilst many of the summer shows are long gone and the future spectacles are set to be filled with autumn harvests, there is one great reminder of the British summertime, and that is The Wisley Flower Show.
Noting huge success last year, there are over 40 exhibitors in attendance this year, offering the chance to enjoy a wide variety of blooms ideal for the season. Set in the stunning surroudings of one of the RHS’s most beloved gardens, The Wisley Flower Show combines small showcases of wonderful planting combinations with the opportunity to buy some old, and new, favourites. Though autumn may be just around the corner, it is the ideal time to fill your garden with some of the last colours of the season and, with the season being ripe for assessing your gardens needs and preparing for next year, a few extra plants never go amiss.
This time of year sees dahlia, rudbekia and echinacea glory in particular, and there are several stands where you can buy stunning specimens. Prairie Glow (below) is an absolutely gorgeous plant which I fell in love with as soon as I set my eyes upon it, whilst the dahlia stand was also a pretty incredible feat of just how bright and ornamental you can make even a small patch at home.
Meanwhile, this fantastic planter, showcased along thriving succulents, is an ideal and creative winter display. And thought the deep long days of the colder months may prove rather grey, the cyclamen and hostas won’t fail to catch your eye.
So, if you’re at a lose end, heading to The Wisley Flower Show is ideal. The forecast may be holding some rain, but lets face it, Wisley is stunning come rain or shine. Take a brolley, stock up on cash, and if it really pelts down, head to the greenhouse to indulge in a tropical retreat.
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As winter creeps ever closer, many gardens are starting to shut down for the chiller months of the year. Deciduous beauty’s are losing their leaves, whilst herbaceous perennials are drawing all their goodness back to their roots. Life seems to recede before our very eyes as specimens shut down and store their energy supplies over the bitter months, often leaving a space drab and dull. But there is absolutely no reason why you can’t get gardening over the coming weeks and ensure that your winter garden is just as fabulous as your summer one.
Many plants in my own garden are still producing abundant flowers. The French Marigolds that I planted at the beginning of the season continue to thrill with a stunning fiery orange. Meanwhile my wonderful little geranium, A. T Johnson, has recovered from it’s summer prune and has given me a second bought of blooms. Located at the bottom of the garden, the pale pink and vibrant orange are glorious together, and pull the eye away from more suspect areas which I haven’t gotten around to clearing!
These blooms will not continue for much longer though, and now is an ideal time to ensure winter colour in the garden. Whether using blooms, berries, or foliage, time is off the essence to ensure plants are put into the ground over the next few weeks and are able to make the most of the last warm growing spells. Foliage is especially fantastic for plants which do not shed their leaves, and can be used to great effect during periods when there are little or no flowers in a garden. Heuchera’s are ideal for beds, borders and even pots, and with a fabulous range of both colour and growing needs, they can suit many aspects of the garden. A deep purple leaf such as those found with ‘Ebony and Ivory’ are brilliant, as is the rusty orange of ‘Creme Brule’, one of my latest garden additions. Meanwhile Ophiopogon is a incredible specimen of lily, with jet black leaves and ideal for use as a contrast plant. Interspersed with snowdrops it will create a scene of pearly flowers against a black backdrop. In my own garden I have it planted in the foreground of Bergenia, with its black leaves clashing against the large waxy green foliage and pink flowers of the commonly named Elephants Ear.
There is no need for any winter garden to be lifeless. Choose vibrant and vivid leafed specimens that will clash and cause excitement even in the depths of winter. Planted in groups of three or five, highlights of important colour can be created around a garden to draw the eye. Alternatively, spread through a border to create a swathe of interesting hues that will be picked up as plants around them grow and fade. And whether contrasting against other foliage, or winter blooms such as cyclamen or snowdrops, any winter garden can be a magical place filled with colour and interest.
Immortalised by Clive Dunn’s Dad’s Army character, ‘Dont Panic’ when it comes to tending your autumn lawn. At this time of the year, when plants are starting to die back, leaves are dropping from the sky, and lawns are undergoing a dramatic maintenance period, the garden can end up looking rather dismal. Whilst some plants may still be burgeoning with life, many are starting to lose their previous appeal. Meanwhile, whilst lawns may look lush and green from the rain we’ve been experiencing, now is the perfect time for some vital upkeep.
Autumn weed and feeds are often more potent than those of the spring, killing moss and weeds off in great patches. It doesn’t matter so much at this time of the year due to plants starting to go into dormancy, and with the winter and early spring allowing plenty of time for grass plants to get back on track, fertilisers can result in some shocking effects! Meanwhile, the scarifying process and removing of thatch from a lawn can leave unsightly thin patches, leaving a once beautiful lawn looking horrifyingly awful.
But dont’ panic! Even if your lawn looks akin to the awful state above. Grass grows quicker the short it is, so after the autumn feeding and scarifying process is complete, use clear days to whizz over the lawn with the mower. Taking the tops off of plants will encourage blades of grass to thrive and thicken, quickly covering thinner patches with fresh new growth. And whilst your lawn may look awful now, next spring it will emerge weed and moss free, and vibrant in fresh new luminous green.