They might need some extra care if blustery weather hits
Decorate it with ribbons and berries!
Perhaps you’ve got a keen culinary relative who’s a budding gardener in the making and you’re trying to think of a suitably appropriate present? What better than the gift of beautiful aroma tagged on to some relatively easy gardening!
An array of evergreen herbs, all available now to plant, will adorn a patio all year round with smell and colour, and flowers in many cases. They’re all low maintenance and snipping off segments to use in the kitchen is a healthy pruning exercise for your plants, though some woody ones such as rosemary need to be kept in check and pruned after flowering to keep them bushy. Replace most herbs every few years to refresh your collection. Once planted up, decorate with ribbons and berried stems for a festive feel! Tell the recipient to pop their planter in a sunny spot, or keep it on a windowsill or in a conservatory for easy access until the spring, watering well.
It’s an easy and interesting way to propagate
It’s that time of year when many of your plants are in their dormant stage, overwintering in the ground nicely before waking up to produce a spectacular display next year. While they’re at this stage, you can be propagating them by taking root cuttings, an easy and interesting job to carry out. Basically, lots of plants are very willing to regrow from cuttings taken from various parts of their anatomy, and acanthus, Oriental poppies, phlox and verbascum are just some of the flowers that respond really well to this root method. This is because their roots are particularly fleshy and robust.
But why take root cuttings now instead of by other means? This is because they’re low maintenance. You simply need to place your cuttings in a cold frame and kept lightly moist until spring. Also, being propagated straight from the root means new plants grown from these cuttings will be extra strong and vigorous – just be sure you initially choose a healthy plant’s roots to start with. Not to mention that cuttings taken now frees you up during the rest of the year to get on with all those other garden jobs that need doing. Next spring, be sure to pot up your well-rooted cuttings, grow them on and then plant out the year after.
There’s still some useful gardening to be done this month, particularly when it comes to planting. You can be creating a beautiful summer garden in the depths of late autumn! Here, Ian is planting out some hollyhocks, which have been grown from seed a few months ago, getting established as young plants in the greenhouse until now. They appreciate a sunny spot, which will help bring out all its blowsy blooms when the time comes in high summer. It’s easy to plant perennials.
All you have to do is make sure they have enough space for their roots to establish comfortably, but you do have to consider what soil and aspect each of your plants needs, and when to plant them. If they’re bought as bare root, like wallflowers or geraniums, they’re best planted now or in spring, during the small yearly windows when the soil is at its most moist.
It’s easier with container grown hardy perennials, as they can be planted all year round as long as the soil is pliable enough. Bare root, however, do tend to establish better and produce a more robust rooted plant. Simply make sure the soil in the area you plant in is well weeded and not compacted, so roots can develop freely. Keep young plants well watered as they grow, and keep an eye out for slugs and snails!
Gather autumn bounty for floral arrangements
There’s so much that can be gleaned from the garden to make your own seasonal display, in the brightest of colours down to the beautiful mute browns reminiscent of this time of year. Even plants that have died and faded to produce seed heads are beautiful, and truly capture the spirit of late autumn! Basically, anything goes. Harvest all the colourful, interesting plants you can, and it may be that this forms part of your pruning and general garden tidy up now, too. It’s best to keep it a dry arrangement with no water, so that dry stems don’t rot. You can simply just replace the live blooms that fade quickly with others.
Cyclamen will give you sharp bursts of colour
Not many plants will be happy languishing in the shade underneath a large tree, but some, such as cyclamen, positively love it! Why not make your own mini woodland with low-growing, sharp bursts of colour from these perennial favourites? Plus you can have different coloured species giving you flowers for six months of the year.
Be sure to choose hardy species, as detailed below. As for planting, space plants about 30cm (1ft) apart for a sparser look, and to leave room for naturalising, or you can plant densely at about 20cm (8in) for more wow factor. If you’re planting into a grassy area, dig out a small sod from the top of your planting hole, ready to be replaced later, then dig a hole deep and big enough for the plants’ root system. Try and dig in a little compost or leaf mould into each hole, to nourish the plants and water well.
Place the plants in, backfill with a little soil and replace as much of the top of the piece of turf as possible. If you’re planting into bare soil, mulch around plants with bark to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Over the next few years, your wild cyclamen spot will increase in size.
Many tall or large, gangly shrubs like roses will need a prune now to prevent them from getting damaged by wind rock. Autumn and winter winds mean your plants get pushed and pulled around ultimately by their roots, which obviously anchor them to the soil. Roots can rip and come loose, making for an unstable, unhealthy plant. Water may even collect in the soil gaps created, which can increase the chance of rotting, too. Trim back one third of the branch growth, down to a bud, which will help prevent the worst of the wind becoming harmful. Make sure the bud is facing the way you want your branches to grow.
Get more of your favourite plants by growing your own
It’s easy to get excited by all the beautiful berried plants at this time of year, as they light up the garden with clusters of colour. Red, orange and yellow pyracantha, rowan and hawthorn berries are all prolific, as are drooping bunches of rose hips.
If you’d like to extend your collection, propagating is an easy way to do so. Using the seed is so simple, and often more fail-safe than taking cuttings. Plus, the exciting part is that the offspring of your seed-raised plants will be slightly different to its parent in colour, form and habit, which adds a bit of a thrill to the process.
Cuttings, on the other hand, give out exact clones of the originals, and may not be as healthy as seed-grown plants.
It’s best to sow seed now rather than saving it and waiting until spring, as it may not be successful at germinating then because it’s too old. Transplant tray-grown seedlings into bigger pots as soon as you can next year, and harden them off outside in spring, before planting them out in autumn.
Step by step: extracting and sowing seed
Boston ivy's wine-red foliage is a magnificent sight
At this time of year, we're all trying to put as much colour into the garden as possible and replicate the vivid colours of summer. Some climbers are wonderful for scent and flowers but, in autumn in particular, there are many with awe-inspiring foliage.
Being planted here is Boston ivy or parthenocissus 'Veitchii' a fast growing climber that's happy in a sunny or shady spot. It'll take up to two years to establish, but the effect of it's wine-red foliage growing up a tree, through a hedge or over an old chimney is magnificent.
It's also a classic for the wall of a house, but it has been known to damage brickwork over time and it needs controlling with a good prune in the winter.
Planting it in a large pot is a good way to keep it in check. Water well and support it with tall canes to start with and then, as it grows, try it up a large obelisk or pergola for a stunning autumn garden feature.