Still Praying For an Indian Summer This Autumn
For us gardeners, we have had a funny old season, extreme heat and humidity during late spring, followed by a rather changeable summer itself; one day sunshine, the next day showers. The seasons obviously got themselves in a muddle! This has meant, for my garden at least, that early in the season, lots of young vegetable seedlings and newly planted perennials and shrubs needed daily watering, leading to a summer which produced a bumper crop of courgettes, growing literally by the hour with the warm and wet weather.
It is this time of year that the ‘ornamental’ garden starts to look a little shabby around the edges, with the summer flowering perennials coming to an end, and the winter flowering shrubs just holding back a little until the first frosts arrive. So many people say that this time of year is the real ‘low point’ of their garden, so it is worth thinking about including a few key ‘performing’ plants that will just extend that season and allow the garden to still look shiny enough for that impromptu barbecue in the Indian summer, that of course we are bound to get!
Ceratostigma wilmottianum. There are very few ‘true’ blue flowers out there, and to see one really does catch the eye in the garden. This lovely small shrub is rather late to leaf, so don’t give up if by May it still looks like a bundle of twigs! New growth emerges from the base of this shrub, with small, attractive mid green leaves that really set off the sapphire blue flowers that emerge in late summer and early autumn.
Clerodendrum trichotomum. A rather unusual large (but not particularly fast growing) shrub that will wow visitors to your garden. With gorgeous, large, fresh looking leaves through the season, the end of the summer reveals sprays of rather gorgeous pink-white star shaped flowers not dissimilar from Jasmine. The real wow factor arrives when these flowers turn to a glorious combination of pink and turquoise seed heads that remain on the plant well after the leaves have dropped.
Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’. Although not strictly a flowering shrub at this time of year, the glorious smoke bush has autumn colour worthy of a mention. The ‘smoke’ like plumes of flowers will still be visible at this time of year, and the leaves will be turning a glorious scarlet colour that really will catch the eye. The best specimens of this lovely shrub that I’ve seen have been rather brutally chopped down to around 4 inches from the ground at the end of the winter. This promotes larger leaves and fresh new growth that is much softer than the old woody growth that so often gives these plants a bad name.
Jobs to do in the garden in Autumn
Collect leaves…. Endlessly! Leaves can produce some seriously gorgeous garden mulch. Collect and leave to rot in black plastic bags in a sunny spot for quickest results. Ericaceous plants especially will benefit from this fantastic mulch. It is worth only collecting leaves from your lawn, leave any that have happily fallen into the beds, you will only be double moving them! You’ll find by the spring that the worms have pulled the majority of them into the soil.
Lift and split perennials. Once perennials have been established for a few years, they start to ‘flop’ and become unhealthy looking. Now is the time to grab a spade, lift the whole perennial and ‘slice’ it in half, at least! Sedum, Crocosmia and Aster especially benefit from this treatment.
Be messy! Please, please, please, put your secateurs away. At least when it comes to perennial seedheads. There is so much to be gained from leaving attractive seedheads on over the winter period. Not only do they look fantastic during a hoary frost, but they are also great for wildlife too. Especially fantastic seedheads to think about including for this very purpose are: Eryngium giganteum, Verbena bonariensis, Alliums, and Agapanthus.
Plant Broad beans. Broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ can be planted in October and November to give them a headstart in the spring, for very early harvesting. Extends the season of broad beans, and will give you a great start in the vegetable garden the following spring.
For any questions or to chat about any of the plants mentioned, please contact Frances at Goscote Nurseries, [email protected] or give us a call on 01509 812 121.