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The Garden in October 2010
October 1st: Autumnal light

I must get a little boring banging on about the beauty of the Autumn light and making the most of it in your garden by planting so that the slanting rays of sun shine through late blooming flowers.  I think Aster Calliope today somewhat justifies my obsession.


October 2nd: More autumnal light

Just lovely! Anthemis Sauce Hollandaise just shines out. If you want good flowering on these semi-shrub plants next year you should be thinking about cutting them back hard by the end of October. 


October 3rd: Jolly 

Bidens Hannay's Lemon Drop is just jolly at the moment!


October 4thLove your bugs

Its always worth getting to know your garden bugs. This rather war-like looking chap is a Green Shield Bug and is harmless in the garden so leave him or her be. I think this is an immature one: mature adults have less black on them.

Apparently there is an invading species, The Southern Green Shield Bug, colonising the London area which can damage runner bean crops. These have lots of white or pink markings around their "shields".  


October 5th: Asters

Aster Anja's Choice is looking great now. It is low growing (about 2ft) and bushy. Ideal for the front of an Autumn planting. We hope to add it to our range for 2011.


October 6th: Late starters

We sowed the seed of Malva Apple Blossom in early spring and they have now made nice bushy plants and are in full flower.  Next year we expect them to flower a lot earlier - from June. This is one way of artificially extending the season by using first year blooming perennials grown from seed. 

October 7th: Persicaria campanulata

This lovely late flowering Persicaria caught my eye today. With its pleated leaves and sprays of tiny pink bells it makes a great prairie style plant but also looks good in a more traditional herbaceous border. 


October 8th: Winter Care: Salvia patens

We find Salvia patens and its varieties, like Dot's Delight here, to be completely hardy in our free-draining soil. I always leave the dead stems on the plants until early spring.  If you garden on a wet soil then you can dig the tubers up in November and pot them up and keep with in a cold greenhouse, cold frame or even a porch. 

Start collecting seed now as the stems dry and sow this in January or February in heat or a bit later in cold frames.


October 9th: Winter Care: Achillea

Some of our Achillea like McVites here are starting to flower again. Other flowering include Moonshine, Tissington Old Rose and FanalCloth of Gold hasn't stopped flowering all summer and autumn.

If like me you garden on sandy soil then the only job is to deadhead and remove dead stems and leaves - let them flower on.

If you garden on wet clay then I'm told that the best treatment is to cut down all the stems to ground level now (or even a few weeks earlier) leaving just the basal leaves. This induces new shoot and root growth which helps them get ready for winter. 


October 10th: Big Surprise

In the spring I found a rootstock of a plant in our compost heap that was sprouting. I recognised it as Salvia atrosanguinea which had never done very much for me in the past. I decided to give it one more chance and I planted it in front of our south-facing garage wall to be rewarded with this spectacular display of deep blue flowers on a 6 foot plant. Its hardy so here's hoping for an even bigger display next year.


October 10th: Second time around

Orientale Poppies are always obliging enough to bloom again in autumn but Patty's Plum is giving it a go at the moment. 

October 11th: Butterflies

Late flowering daisy flowers like Asters are ideal the late flying butterflies like Red Admirals, Commas and Small Tortoiseshells.


October 11th: Geranium sanguineum

These Geraniums have a distinct flush of flower in early summer petering out by August. Since September they have been building up flower again reaching a peak now. 

They are easy to propagate by division and from root cuttings. They can be grown from seed but named varieties won't come true. 

October 12th: Commas not at a full stop!

I've just been reading on the Butterfly Conversation website about the spread of Comma butterflies back into Scotland where they became extinct in 1870. Despite the cold winter we've had lots in our garden and they are still flying looking for nectar to get them through a winter-long hibernation.


October 13th: Centaurea collection

We applied for National Collection status for Centaurea some time ago.  Currently our collection is being assessed by experts for completeness and accuracy of naming. 

We expect offer even more varieties for sale in 2011. Centaurea nogmovii caught my eye today with a fresh crop of very large pink cornflowers. 


October 14th: Border Phlox: winter care

Not much to do with Phlox now (except enjoy the second crop of flower likes Discovery here). You can divide (split) Phlox now but don't break them down into very small pieces. 

Once the stems have died cut them right to the ground. Burn or dispose of the stems.

In the winter you can take root cuttings.


October 15th: Autumn light

I think that dark bronze leaves like those of Heliopsis Summer Nights here look so good at this time of year. 


October 15th: Another good Aster

Aster Vasterival is great at this time - light and airy and mildew free.


October 16th: Cardoon

I'm really enjoying the second crop of buds and flowers on my Cardoons (Cynara carduncularis) at the moment. Big, bold and blooming marvellous, the flowers are great but the plant really struggles in the poor, dry, shallow soil its planted in and the leaves are few and quickly die off. 

So I've have to move it next year to better soil.  It should have quite deep roots which makes moving it a problem as any broken roots will possibly sprout afresh making it difficult to plant on top of where it comes out. 

There's no easy answer other than pulling out any resulting shoots as soon as you see them. 


October 16th: Black and Blue and Blue

I planted Salvia guaranitica Black and Blue this spring in some good soil in sun and I've been rewarded with a large imposing plant with tall (6ft) spires now sporting their second flush of flower. The black calyces, blue flowers and blue autumnal sky look so good. 

Is it hardy?  The other guaranitica varieties I've tried (Blue Enigma and Argentina Sky) are, but this one seems to have an altogether softer appearance so I'm keeping some young plants from cuttings in my greenhouse over winter in case the mother plant dies. 


October 17th: New Plants?

Its always exciting when a new seedling comes into flower when you aren't sure of its parentage. I planted this Astrantia seedling in some deep, moist, slightly shaded soil in early summer and it has made a lovely plant and is in full flower now. It originally came up in the pot of a plant we bought from a specialist nursery. Now I think it looks great and it would be tempting to think it is something new and give it a name and once bulked up release it to a grateful gardening world. Sometimes I think nurseries succumb to this temptation far too quickly and easily. I must admit my knowledge of Astrantia varieties is quite limited so I've no way of knowing if it is new and different. The only way to find out about this or any other plant is to ask the National Collection holder his or her opinion. I'm quite surprised that we in the nursery trade don't have a code of practice that requires us to seek the opinion of the National Collection Holder before naming a plant as new. 

October 18th: Autumn glory

I think I feature this lovely Euphorbia villosa last October but who cares. Just now it is an absolute picture in the bed flanking our driveway.


October 19th: Late bloomers

Selinum wallichianum is a great late bloomer with these lovely large heads of white flowers, red stems and ferny leaves.   


October 20th: My and my shadow

One of the garden Robin's has become very attached to us, swooping down to ask for food each time we pass.  She has now become a virtual shadow when we are working in the garden.

First proper frost this morning hence Janet looking so cold!

October 21st: Evergreen perennials

Now is the time of year to enjoy evergreen perennials like Francoa sonchifolia. I usually attend to these now by clearing away dead and damaged leaves, hunting out any slug and snails and cutting back the stems of any deciduous perennials surrounding the plants so I can enjoy the evergreen leaves to their full.


October 22nd: Miscanthus

Our Miscanthus grasses are still looking good with the flowers running to fluffy seed now. Don't be worried about a plaque of seedlings though. Whilst I'm not saying they don't grow, I've never had one come up in my garden from self seeding. 

Enjoy the seed heads and stems through winter but don't forget to cut them back before new growth starts in early spring. I cut mine back to 4 - 6in from the ground but I'm told that you can leave the stems higher (say 1ft - 1ft 6in) and new growth appears from these point. I haven't tried it and don't really see the need as these grasses get tall enough, quickly enough anyway.

I would only divide (split) Miscanthus in mid or late spring.


October 22nd: Help!

This is lovely late flowering Aster with lavender flowers and dark stems about 3ft tall. We bought it a while ago and label was rather faded, I think it said "Novemberslaan" which is Dutch I believe for (unsurprisingly) "November's Lane". Can anyone confirm this and tell me anything about its history please.


October 23rd: Its that autumnal light again!

The coloured stem Dogwoods (Cornus) are lovely now and right through the autumn.  Here is Cornus alba Kesselringii looking glorious with its autumn leaves glowing in the afternoon light. Through the winter the stems will shine out in the garden. This one has near black stems that look so good against the crisp winter skies on a sunny day. Cornus alba Sibirica has bright red stems and Midwinter Fire has orange-peach stems. 

Most gardening books will tell you to cut the stems hard back to the ground in late winter. This is supposed to produce the most brightly coloured stems. You can leave the plants unpruned or prune more lightly and get a larger, taller and in my opinion more dramatic shrub.

Ideally they like moist soils but don't tell the ones in my garden that put up with dry conditions quite happily not knowing any better.


October 24th: Molinias

The Moor Grasses (Molinia) are just starting to get their autumn colours with the leaves turning to butter and gold tones. Strahlenquelle ("Shining or radiant Fountain) here is a good shortish one growing to about 3ft - 3ft 6in tall.  These are deciduous grasses so in about January the leaves will break away from the clumps and fall to the ground - so no having to cut them back.


October 25th: Caspid damage

Caspid bugs can be little devils in the garden. They pierce the leaves of plants to suck the sap causing distortion and brown or black pock marks all over the uppermost leaves like on this Centaurea nogmovii here. For the Centaurea this is not a problem but for Dahlias, Fuchsia, Phygellius and other plants it can completely ruin flowering. Its almost impossible to catch the pest, so it is one thing that I do spray against if I notice bad damage just before flowering. And below here the little beast itself on the same flower.

October 26th: Earwig damage

Going through my 2010 photos I came across this flower showing typical signs of damage by earwigs. These bugs crawl up to the unfurling buds and tatter the petals before they are fully open. By day they hide away. The best method of control is a trap made from an upturned pot stuffed with straw or shredded paper pushed onto a cane placed amongst the flowers. Empty the traps daily, destroying the earwigs. 


October 27th: Silhouettes 

At this time of year seed heads make beautiful silhouettes against the late afternoon sky. Miscanthus Sirene (foreground) and Rudbeckia Goldkugel (background) are highlights in our garden now.


October 28th: Cutbacks 

No, not a political statement! Its that time of year again to cut back perennials that won't benefit (you or them) from keeping their stems and leaves. People often ask me how far to cut back Heleniums - the picture shows what works for me. The short stubs left provide just enough of a lever for pulling the plants apart in spring if I want to divide them