Autumn is officially here although the weather would lead us to believe that summer is still with us! There are still lots of plants to add interest to the garden this time of year and here are just a few of them.
Floral & Hardy’s top ten October flowering plants:
This is a large evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and fragrant pink and white flowers with red bracts July – October. Height 120-150cms. Really useful if you’ve a large space to fill in the border.
‘Michaelmas Daisy’ – most of us may be familiar with this one, with its mass of pink, lavender or white daisy flowers September – October. It’ll grow almost anywhere as long as there’s a bit of sun.
‘Autumn Crocus’ – an unusual bulb with pink, wine glass-shaped flowers September – November, followed by large leaves in spring. Height 15-20cms. Looks good in woodland situations.
A very large evergreen with bold, glossy, palmate leaves and creamy candelabra-like flowers October – November. Height 2 – 2.4ms. Especially good in a jungle/exotic scheme.
We’re all familiar with the varieties grown in hanging baskets, but there are also some hardy types forming bushy shrubs with pendant red, pink or white flowers through summer and early autumn.
Gentian – this is one for the rockery, growing only to about 15cms tall, with the truest of blue flowers September – November. The only snag – you must have an acid soil to grow it.
Rounded, deciduous, shade loving shrubs with large mid-green leaves and large ‘mop-head’ or ‘lace-cap’ flowers July – October. Height 1.2-1.5ms. Flowers are generally pink or blue, but interestingly will change colour according to the soil type – pink on alkaline soil, blue on acid.
Exotic looking pink flowers on naked stems September – October, followed by long leaves in spring. Height 45cms.Plant in a sunny position for best results.
An old favourite with pretty, light blue, pin-cushion-like flowers and a long flowering season June – October. Height 75cms.
An unusual, and rather attractive perennial with deep red flowers September – November. Height 60cms. It’s a bit fussy though and needs a well-drained, but moisture-retentive soil. If you’ve got that, it’s worth having a go.
October Tips and Advice:
1. Autumn planting of new perennials and shrubs has a distinct advantage over spring in that the soil is still reasonably warm and we can probably expect more rain at this time of year, so the plants get time to make fresh roots before winter.
2. It’s also a good time to lift and divide your existing perennials for the same reason.
3. Towards the end of the month you should start cutting back your perennials and clearing away any dead material – either for the compost heap, or, if you are allowed where you live, the bonfire. Don’t leave any debris lying around for the slugs to hide under!
4. Sweet Peas can be sown in pots in the greenhouse or in a cold frame now.
5. Right now is the ideal time for planting winter flowering heathers to give a colourful show through the season.
6. Thinking about colour later on, it is also the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as Crocus, Narcissus and Tulips.
7. Ever fancied having an alpine meadow in your garden? It’s really just a fancy name for growing small bulbs through grass! If you do, now’s the time to plant. All you have to do is select the area of lawn you want to dedicate and carefully lift strips of turf about 30cms wide by 90cms long and 5cms deep. Put them to one side and fork over the soil lightly before planting your chosen bulbs, about 5cms below the surface. Good candidates would be Snakeshead Fritillaries, Crocus, Dwarf Narcissus, Scilla and . Try to plant in random groups so that they look naturalistic, firm down the soil, replace the turf and water. Simple!
8. If you have a pond it will be worth netting it to prevent falling leaves polluting the water – especially important if you have fish.
9. If you have any green tomatoes left on your plants, harvest them now and store them in a cool, dark place to ripen gradually.
10. Remove fallen leaves from your lawn regularly, set your lawnmower to its winter height and continue to mow as necessary.
By Helen Ellison