It’s a little sad when you can’t help but notice there isn’t enough evening light to finish the list of gardening tasks you’d planned,isn’t it! But here are a few to get started on anyhow, like constructing new planting areas, cutting out dead wood in shrubs and trees, and making plans for next year…….
MAKING A NEW BED
September can be a fabulous time to create a new planting area in your garden. In our region, we have had another dry summer leaving the clay soil dense and hard, but now we’ve had a few wetter autumn days, we have been able to make a start on a nice project to extend our catmint bed around the terrace.
We’ve been so pleased with the first bed – having cut all the catmint stems to half their height at the end of May, it has flowered and been a-buzz with bees and butterflies for months. (By the way, I won’t be cutting these stems to their base until early spring, because they will provide protection for the plant crowns against the predicted hard winter.)
Anyway. We marked out the bed carefully with a tape measure, pegs and string, then took off the turves which were put to good use elsewhere in the garden. We then edged the bed with shallow treated wooden planks – they won’t last forever, but they look good and they make life so much easier for the person tending the border plants and the person wielding the lawnmower around them.
After that, a bit of graft was needed. The soil was dug over and the weed roots pulled out, though I guarantee we won’t have found all of them! A small rotovator is handy here, though you run the risk of chopping up pieces of weed-root into a thousand different pieces all of which will make a new plant! Much of the soil at the site of our new bed was a claggy clay, so we forked in lots of compost and several bags of grit to lighten it and open up the soil particles, improving drainage.
I had taken lots of cuttings of the original catmint plants and took the risk of planting these little rooted pieces into the new bed hoping that they might establish well while the soil is still warm. I’ll tuck them up cosily and keep you posted on whether the winter frost kills them and I have to start again next March!
PRUNING FOR SHAPE
This is not generally the time to go bonkers with the pruning saw, and though you may be tempted to hack back all the late-flowering shrubs like Buddleia and Hydrangea, it’s actually better to leave them until early spring because pruning might trigger fresh new growth that will be clobbered by winter cold and weaken your plant.
It could however be a good moment to peer into the centre of shrubs and trees and cut out any dead, diseased or otherwise unproductive shoots and twigs you find. If the middle has become matted with such material, the air flow can become restricted through the plant and more disease problems can result. Some of the weakest thin branches growing the centre can be cut out and any small branches growing at a daft angle making the plant look ugly. Some things like acers are particularly prone to this sort of growth, but lots (Choisya, Laburnum, Robinia etc.) might also appreciate a once-over round about now.
AT THE RISK OF REPEATING MYSELF……
I hope that you’re already making plans for how you can make your garden even more beautiful next year. Well, while you are making the shopping list of plants that you absolutely must have, please may I put in a good word for repeat-flowering roses.
I suspect my relationship with roses through the years has been fairly typical of many. I started out with Hybrid Teas and Floribundas, had a dalliance with the little container ones and the ground-cover roses (until I realised what a nightmare they are to weed through!), came over all ‘Vita Sackville-West’ with the once-flowering ancient and romantic beauties, discovered the English roses of David Austin which meant that you could have romance AND repeat-flowering………………….and now I grow them all! (Though the ground-cover ones, not so much).
But they have to prove themselves worthy of a place in the garden in at least two categories:
- Beauty of flower
- Single (and thus attractive to pollinating insects)
- Fabulous foliage
- Gorgeous hips
- Lack of thorns
- Resistance to disease
…..and this last requirement has been met magnificently this year by some of the roses I grow. I’d just like to mention a few to you, in case you’re in the market for such good do-ers:
R. ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (our feature photo this week); ‘Simple Peach’, ‘Champagne Moment’, ‘Harlow Carr’, ‘Tickled Pink’, ‘The Alnwick Rose’, ‘Hot Chocolate’, , ‘Sally Holmes’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Bonica’, and ‘Blush Noisette’. It’s a real mix of types and colours but all of these respond astonishingly quickly to dead-heading, putting on new growth and being covered in buds or flowers again within three weeks. Many, many roses do this repeat-flowering trick a little, but those ones, I promise you, do it a lot!
- Back in July, I explained how to take semi-ripe cuttings, and there’s still time to take these cuttings from plants whose wood won’t have thoroughly hardened yet – penstemons, salvias, lavender, Phlomis, box…….
- Don’t forget to make notes of things you want to change in the garden for next year – you won’t remember when you are tucked up in front of Strictly in December!
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