The heat is off – but Susie White explains how you can keep the garden interesting and welcoming to wildlife
There’s still plenty to see in autumn gardens, from glowing dahlias, purple asters and golden grasses. Why not plan a visit to an arboretum as leaves transform into vivid colours, or to a garden open for the National Garden Scheme?
As leaves fall in my own garden I see them as a harvest, raking them from paths and paving, heaping them on to the woodland border where they will rot down to keep my shadeloving plants happy.
After November I try not to walk on this border because bulbs will already be emerging. They will come up through the leafmould as it rots down.
A wildlife garden doesn’t have to mean an untidy one. I keep the paths and edges neat, the area around the house looking ordered but the borders full of places for insects and other creatures to overwinter. So between now and the beginning of December, I cut down and compost perennials such as geraniums, lupins or ladies’ mantle that will otherwise turn into a soggy mess if I leave them. Plants that will stay upright in the wind or give me something interesting to look at in winter are left: sea hollies, Siberian iris seedheads, sedums, but all the annuals will be cleared away once the frost hits them. It’s important not to cut back grasses, but to wait until February when the new growth starts to show. Don’t try and divide them now either – wait for early spring.
I’ll move tender plants into the greenhouse for winter and clean terracotta pots before storing them in a shed to protect against frost. If you have a tree fern, stuff the centre with straw, pull the fronds up over it, top it with fleece and cover with bubble wrap to keep out the rain. Cordyline palms should be brought into a porch or garage and barely watered, but give them an occasional good soaking.
Robin on seedhead