The dreaded Autumn Colour!

 

At the end of October we took a break from the garden and went to stay with our dear friend Sonja who lives in The National Forest (imagine small thatched ginger bread house in woodland clearing – no – small but perfectly formed terrace in Swadlincote). We left home on the Friday to summer’s last hurrah; two days later we returned to autumnal gloom. Knee deep in leaf litter everywhere; it’s all very well extolling the virtues of Autumn Colour (hushed voices, deep awe), if only it would stay on the trees! Gutters blocked, paths and lawns littered, shrub canopies choked, containers swamped. And then, do you let the leaves rot down to a natural mulch in the borders or do you clear them away so they don’t rot the crowns of your prized perennials? (Neat freak, clear them away, and then add somebody else’s mulch for £4.50 a bag.)

Acers on a spectacular scale - October 2016

Acers on a spectacular scale – October 2016

Anyway, mercifully so far I have been able to sweep this year’s leaf litter up during the current dry spell. Woe betide it should rain, you take your life in your hands every time you step outside your front door! (Talking of Autumn Colour, some of the best I’ve seen has to be on the stretch of M1 motorway between Northampton and Leicester.) Autumn Colour apart, it’s the low light levels at dawn and dusk, casting their luminescent glow over the fiery landscape that gets me every year, just magical.

Coleus 'Campfire' & Hydrangea 'Zorro'

Coleus ‘Campfire’ & Hydrangea ‘Zorro’

In contrast to my androgynous gardening demeanour, Sonja, being a perfumery consultant, is a fragrant jewel! So for the first time in about 30 years I treated my feminine side to some perfume. And the point of the story is this: Wearing said perfume whilst sweeping up the dreaded Autumn Colour (and why not?) just smelled wrong! It masked the scents of the soil and natural fragrance of the flowers that I hadn’t even consciously registered before. How about that!

Now it truly is autumn in the garden

Now it truly is autumn in the garden

……Anyway, back in my gardening world, I was so excited about all the plants I was going to grow in my new propagator that I forgot one fundamental thing – to water them: Guess what, they all died! I am rubbish at cuttings, I really am, having always put it down to lazy horticultural practices. A brief knock to my confidence before taking another lot of cuttings (host plants looking a bit bald thereafter) whilst promising to learn by my mistakes. So we will see. However as insurance I have supplied a duplicate set (what is the collective for cuttings?) of salvia involucrata and confertifolia (sounds like a musical score) to the Chairman (Chair, Chairperson, whatever!) of our local Hort Soc, who is a veritable cuttings magician.
Whilst we are on the subject of my shortcomings, how many times do I have to lose my heucheras to vine weevil before I learn my lesson? Empty pots, add fresh compost, plant heucheras, feel noble. Simple! And why oh why do I put off splitting perennials for five years? A WW1 trenching tool was the only implement hefty enough to shift the clump of white phlox with a root ball the size of a wrecking ball! While we are at it, perhaps it would be a good idea to clean the greenhouse windows before the automatic lights stay on permanently. (The electricity bill has already doubled due to the heated propagators, and David’s paternal concern for the mice.)

flaming central bed & FUCHSIAfuchsiaberry

flaming central bed & FUCHSIAfuchsiaberry

Really though I cannot believe we have reached November already. Whilst David is raring to go with his festive red berry lighting for the front garden, I am so behind with my jobs: so reluctant to lift the cannas, some of which have only just come into flower; have hastily stuffed & wrapped the tree fern (oven ready?) but must must must raise the containers onto pot feet, fleece the eucomis and bring the tender salvias under cover. T & M Crackerjack petunias and new Bidens are still flowering in the hanging baskets, half hardy annuals, tender perennials and my treasured ricinus are still in full swing but surely it’s only a matter of time before they are cut down by frost. I did succumb to tulips in the end, black Paul Scherer and white Triumphator (not sure, threw the packaging away, why do I do that every year?) planted in amongst the grasses out front.

Hanging baskets just keep on going!

Hanging baskets just keep on going!

I am so reluctant to get on with it all, as it will signify the end of this amazing horticultural year for us. But no doubt I will find something to write about in December but until then have a productive autumn and be careful not to slip on those dratted leaves.

Winding down through autumn

Having had an unexpected rest from gardening due to a chest infection that has now lasted for around 6 weeks, and a computer crash following an update! Which ended up at the repairers for around nine days.  Thankfully I am now starting to recover and have managed to cut back old plants that were overdue and cleaning out pots. As I had to leave a lot of the work I noticed that plants seem to be having a second round of flowering – I guess you never give up learning especially when it comes to gardening.

Clematis' 3rd flowering of the season & unnamed trial fuchsia

Clematis’ 3rd flowering of the season & unnamed trial fuchsia

While clearing through some drawers during my enforced rest I found an old note book I had for my gardening in 1995! I had left notes to myself reminding me about getting fresh compost and not old bags because I had had a bad experience that year losing several plants. Also notes about cutting fuchsias and burying them until the spring amongst many other good ideas which obviously I took to heart as I seem to be doing them up to now..

1995 notepad & part of the container garden

1995 notepad & part of the container garden

With the weather cooling down quickly and leaves turning on my hydrangeas I noticed two Calla Lilies which have been in the garden for four years and have got to this stage in bud.  Now that a lot of the other plants have finished they are taking pride of place, and yesterday (last week October) discovered that one of them has now flowered. FUCHSIA FuchsiaBerry has had a lot of fruit.  I have tried them a couple of times and they taste quite smooth almost the texture of a cherry.

Still flowering laurentia & an unnamed trial antirrhinum

Still flowering laurentia & an unnamed trial antirrhinum

The Strawberry ‘Irresistible’ which I trialled about four years ago from Thompson and Morgan is producing fruit for the second time this year. The double antirrhinums, Sun Diascia ‘Eternal Flame’ and the three unnamed trial plants from this year – unnamed bidens, fuchsia and trailing antirrhinum are all pictured here. The latter, a peachy pink colour – have been flowering for the whole season. I wonder if they have been named yet?
In September I received an Invitation to attend the Bournemouth in Bloom presentations, thankfully Alan and I were well enough to attend. What a big surprise when I discovered I had won the Gold Award and overall winner for my Container Garden and Silver award for my Hanging Basket and Patio garden.  I was thrilled to bits and thank you Wendie Alexander for the lovely piece on Facebook.

Bournemouth in Bloom awards & Strawberry 'Irrestitible'

Bournemouth in Bloom awards & Strawberry ‘Irrestitible’

This year I have planted up some plants for the winter. We are usually visiting my Sister in California through October/November not getting home until the beginning of December, then of course we are into Christmas, so I have already planted tulips ready for the spring and thought that I would plant the daffodils in the garden so it doesn`t look so bare and then they can establish without much help.

Autumn colour & diascia's 2nd flowering

Autumn colour & diascia’s 2nd flowering

Alan has been busy taking the watering system out of the front and drying the computer timer, taking the battery out and storing for next year.  I usually throw the battery away as you can`t tell how much power is in it and it has been working for over five months. We leave the watering system in place in the back garden just putting the timer away as it is more sheltered than the front. My two tier stands have been taken down and sprayed with protective oil and the baskets cleaned and put away until next year. I take all the chains off the baskets and spray them, then hang them in my shed.

Calla Lilly & useful notes in 1995 notepad

Calla Lilly & useful notes in 1995 notepad

Now is the time to start thinking about next year`s plants etc and look forward to the new spring/summer catalogue from Thompson & Morgan so the dark evenings will be used thumbing through the catalogues…and then of course there is Christmas.  I have just received the Christmas catalogue from Thompson & Morgan and they have some wonderful flowers/plants in there, must start planning for some of them!!

Autumn tones & Tomato 'Sweet Aperitif'

Autumn tones & Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’

Hope all my gardening friends are keeping healthy and enjoying the autumn, take care until the next time………………….Jean

Jean Willis
I started gardening 65 years ago on my Dad’s allotment and now live in Bournemouth, where spend a lot of time gardening since retiring. In 2012 I won the Gold Award for Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. I am a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel.

Garden tools for autumn and winter

Autumn is the time of year to think about cleaning and maintenance. To help with this, we have listed a number of tasks and tools to use. This is not an exhaustative list but includes some hints and tips to get you started.

Greenhouse, gardening & all-purpose cleaner

Greenhouse, gardening & all-purpose cleaner

Greenhouse: The greenhouse is an important part of your autumn/winter plans. If you don’t already have one, now is the time to invest. If you are lucky enough, then it is time to have a cleanup. When most of your plants have died back, it is the perfect time to give the greenhouse a sweep. This removes any unwanted old compost, and decayed plant matter, making sure you keep those garden pests, such as wood lice, at bay. Get a good broom, and strong handle, lift all the old pots and containers off the floor, and sweep around. Give the floor and windows a good clean with a strong cleaning agent or disinfectant. This will rid your greenhouse of anything unwanted from the previous season. If you have completely cleared out the greenhouse, you could even use a pressure washer. When the greenhouse is empty, put in some insulation to keep everything warm over the autumn and winter seasons. If you have pots lying around, give them a wash and any old and broken pots can be used for drainage in new pots. For a treat, why not add a potting bench or bench tidy to the greenhouse for when you start sowing seeds.

Potting bench & bench tidy

Potting bench & bench tidy

Tidy Borders: Prune any late-flowering shrubs, or climbing roses, unless they are repeat flowerers, then prune when finished. Either sharpen secateurs and pruning shears, or invest in new, they perform better the sharper they are. After tidying borders, add well rotted manure to add nutrients to the ground, spent mushroom compost to insulate plant roots. Add a mulch with bark chips to suppress weeds during winter and the coming season. Clear overhanging plants from pathways to maintain access routes. Make time to trim evergreen hedges before winter sets in completely. This will keep them neat and tidy through the season. You could even install solar lighting to see your garden in the dark evenings.

Lawn mower & garden fork

Lawn mower & garden fork

Lawn Maintenance: Initially invest in a suitable lawn mower for your garden. Mow any long grass, ensuring you raise the height of the mower blades as grass growth is slowing down at this time of year. Try aerating your lawn with a garden fork, as this helps to improve drainage and aeration. Remove any thatch from the surface with a garden rake, and repair dead patches with grass seed. Use a lawn scarifier if you have a large area to cover. In January, try adding lawn edging to create a neat and tidy appearance, making maintenance easier during the coming months.

Secateurs & solar lighting

Secateurs & solar lighting

Compost bin: In preparation for all the fallen leaves and dead plant material to come over the coming months, buy a compost bin. Autumn leaves are a good addition to compost bins and ideal for leaf mould. However don’t compost rose leaves in case they have diseases such as black spot. If you are adding woody pruning to compost bins, shred or chop it first as they are slow to decompose.

Pond wizard & netting for brassicas

Pond wizard & netting for brassicas

Fish and Bird Care: It is a good idea to add netting to your ponds to prevent leaves from falling in. Clean pond weed, and lay it out next to the pond for a couple of days to allow the wildlife to get back into the water. Add a bird bath, keeping it topped up with fresh water all through autumn and winter. Consider adding a bird feeder in the garden, keeping it topped up with bird seed and fat balls. Birds are real friends to the gardener keeping pest numbers down.

We hope these hints and tips help you to get your autumn and winter gardening underway. For more ideas, visit our What To Do In The Garden This Month, or our Top 10 Winter Tips.

Wendie Alexander
I have worked for Thompson & Morgan for nearly four years. In that time I have learnt lots about gardening, but consider myself very much a novice. I have started growing veg on a colleague’s allotment and also growing windowsill seeds such as Salad Leaves and Rocket. I love gaining more knowledge about horticulture and am lucky enough to work here.

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