The last of the summer vines
Autumn may be upon us, but don’t be down about the change of season, it offers the promise of some exciting new planting projects
I’VE been a bit sluggish in accepting the new season. But now I’m quite enjoying this period of garden change. It’s one of those gardening things that the regret in losing spring and summer with all its lush growth, beautiful flowers, scents and everyday change is soon replaced by the joy of other projects. At the moment the ground is still warm and moist after torrential downpours, so we are into the planting season. I’ve eyed plants in others’ gardens through the summer and now I can make plans to add them to my own. But my first job is planting up pots and containers. Nothing heralds a new season like a fresh display in pots at the front door or newly planted window boxes, so let’s see this week what we can do to put autumn in a bowl. Some of your summer bedding may be limping along at this stage – if so, consign them and the soil they were planted in to the compost heap. You want to give your new bedding the best possible start and this will be with fresh compost that is full of goodness. Others may have a couple of weeks left in them – I’ve some nemesia and argyranthemums that are still going strong so I won’t touch them yet. Garden centres are full of options at the moment, with tray-loads of cyclamens. These are great for an instant pop of colour and the vibrant pinks, reds and crystal-clear whites will brighten up the darkest days. Ask for hardy varieties as the florist varieties won’t survive unless protected in a porch. I’ve paired them here in a classic terracotta pot with some pretty white and pink heathers. Trailing small white-leaved ivies and some purple and white gently fragrant violas complete the picture. This is a simple, low-maintenance arrangement and the flowers will provide valuable autumn nectar for wildlife. There’s not going to be a huge amount of growth over the next few months, so it’s best to plant densely to give a full effect. For the window box arrangement, I’ve used a light-coloured pot which complements the deep pink heathers and cyclamens. I’ve also added some mint to this display. Although this will die back in the winter, for the moment it’s a zingy fresh green and aromatic, and it will return in spring. You could also add hardy herbs such as sage, bay, rosemary and thyme which look good as well as being useful and can be mixed through ornamental flowers or grouped as a miniature herb garden. Other autumn container possibilities include heucheras with their marble foliage, evergreen grasses such as Festuca glauca, carex, evergreen ferns and hardy sempervivums which colour up beautifully in winter frosts. As we enter October, it’s also a great time to get your spring bedding in place. Wallflowers, forget-me-nots, bellis and sweet William can all be planted now so they have a chance to root in while it’s still mild. They won’t do much else over the coming winter but next spring they’ll be ready to bloom along with your spring bulbs – and it’s cheering in the dark depths of winter to have something truly glorious to look forward to in the spring!
I’ve been a bit sluggish in accepting the new season. But now I’m enjoying this period of garden change
Diarmuid’s pretty display of heathers, cyclamens and white-leaved ivies Forget-me-nots