My gardening diary
The seasonal task of dividing herbaceous plants gets underway, with hosta ‘Frances Williams’ being dug up and sliced into several big chunks with a sharp spade. If you make the pieces too small, the plant initially reverts to its juvenile state and the new leaves will be half the size next spring.
How do you treat your dahlias at this time of year? Most of ours are in pots and we’ve decided to keep on feeding them – though only once a week, with potash-rich liquid feed – to help them have a last floral fling. We won’t carry them inside until the first frost turns them black.
Sowing phacelia (green manure) on the bare patches that have been created where we’ve pulled beans and sweetcorn. It should grow fast and will probably produce its pretty blue flowers into the winter. We’ll dig it in later – it’s an invaluable source of nitrogen.
Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’ is full of fruit this year. They’re attractive, like little raspberry-coloured lanterns festooned among the branches. At Alice’s wedding we’d planned to use copper beech as a background. In the event its leaves had gone and the cornus stepped into the breach.
When you reach for the rake to make piles of fallen leaves, you know that autumn has well and truly arrived. As our trees get bigger, the carpets of orange, amber and russet at their feet get deeper and deeper. For the next few weeks, this is going to be one of our main activities.
Salvias seem to have had a bumper year. They’re so exciting with their rich and diverse colour range and so varied in their habit, from twiggy bushes to large-leaved giants. They add enormous interest, especially in the latter half of the year. Cuttings taken from substantial stock plants will root in a matter of weeks.
Mint is such a useful herb, not only for lovers of roast lamb! In this vegetarian household, we use it to make mint tea, add zest to houmous and to raita, made with yoghurt and the last of our cucumbers. Although it can be a thumping nuisance when it escapes, it’s easy to contain by planting it in a bucket plunged into the ground.
Left, drooping, raspberry-like cornus fruit. Right, hosta ‘Frances Williams’