Autumn can be a golden age in garden

October and November can be great months in the garden, so says Olive Ryan in her weekly column
Autumn can be a golden age in garden

Anemone japonica. or windflower, is a great autumn flowering perennial

SEPTEMBER has been a surprisingly good month in the garden.

After taking a considerable battering in August, plants perked up again during the warm and sunny spell that we experienced during the last month and the result was some good late summer/early autumn colour and interest.

Rudbeckias, helenium, sunflower, agastache and anemones all recovered well and now there is asters, strobilanthes and salvias joining in on the flowering action.

Ornamental grasses are a great addition to the garden as they come into their own at this time of the year.

Miscanthus is one of the larger grasses, producing tassles that colour up nicely as the temperatures begin to drop. The foliage and flowers remain over the winter, giving texture colour and movement in the garden when it is needed most.

One of the best is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’, which produces pink plumes in late summer that turn red in autumn and the grassy foliage also colours up in winter.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ has, as its name suggests, lovely graceful arching foliage and produces pink flushed flowers that later turn silver in winter.

Generally, they do not require staking which is an important consideration. They do need to be cut down to the ground in spring before growth begins and the new growth begins to appear from the base.

 The beautiful pink berries of Euonymous europaes or spindle berry.
The beautiful pink berries of Euonymous europaes or spindle berry.

Autumn is a great season in the garden and my favourite time of the year. The colour of fruit in the hedgerows, rose hips, sloes, haws, holly, rowan, spindle tree and guelder rose berries are all beginning to make their presence felt.

It is a bountiful time right now as the growing season comes to a close.

The leaves on the deciduous trees are beginning to slowly turn colour as the sugars build up in the leaves and chlorophyll production slows down in preparation for the winter shutdown.

October and November can be great months in the garden and the sharp drop in temperature over the last week may work well with producing autumn leaf colour.

Grass growth has at last slowed down — it has been a busy season for grass cutting with plentiful rain throughout the summer enabling consistent growth.

Do not be tempted to cut the grass down too tightly in preparation for winter as this may shave the grass and allow for the development of moss.

The Barn garden looking autumnal at ‘The Bay Garden’ last week.
The Barn garden looking autumnal at ‘The Bay Garden’ last week.

Instead, raise up the lawnmower to keep things neat and collect leaves as you go.

If leaves are not collected from the lawn then they will kill the grass underneath by eliminating light.

Bag up the leaves or add them to the compost as they will create a beautiful crumbly growing medium usable in a year or two.

There is so much in the garden that can be reused to provide very useful resources that otherwise might need to be purchased.

It is a time to review what did well in the garden and where there may be room for improvement next year.

It is a time to slow down and take stock, rest as the days get shorter after working hard all summer to keep the garden looking good.

Growth is slowing down now as the night time temperatures are dropping into single figures and it is time to consider bringing in some of the more tender plants that need protection from the frost like cannas, pelargoniums, salvias and gingers.

These plants need to be brought into a dry and frost free environment once temperatures go below freezing at night time.


Salvia Phyllis Fancy.
Salvia Phyllis Fancy.

Plant of the week

Salvias are one of the best plants for producing late summer and early autumn colour and there are some notable cultivars, among them is Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ (above) with its two tone blue/white tubular flowers.

It is a tall plant, getting up to two metres in height, so it is one for the back of the border. It prefers full sun in a sheltered site and a well drained soil.

Taking cuttings now is advisable, particularly if the plant is being left in the ground over winter as it may not survive the frost.

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