SHRUBS & TREES
After last year’s severe winter and the dry/wet summer now is a good time to assess your garden and decide if you need to replace any shrubs and trees that were damaged and that may be either dead or beyond redemption. October is a good time to plant to get them settled in before the cold weather starts. However, if October and November are dry, you will need to remember to keep watering them.
If your garden lacks colour at this time of year consider some of the wonderful autumn colouring shrubs and trees that are available such as the shrub Cotinus .
Cotinus ‘Grace’ (shown above) is a favourite of mine as it is not as dark purple as the more commonly seen C. coggria Royal Purple and the leaves are larger if you prune it to 20cm or so about ground level after the first year in March) . Also check out some of the deciduous Euonymus : The winged spindle tree, E. alatus for example, turns a fiery red with the additional bonus of reddish purple fruits. If you are looking for a climber with autumn colour, vines such as Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’ turn a beautiful burgundy and red at this time of year. I will be posting images of this climber and other great autumn plants as they start to turn in the weeks to come, so watch this space. Vitis coignetiae is a vigorous and large leaved vine with spectacular autumn colour (but to be sure of a good specimen select it when it is actually showing its autumn colours). Alternatively the Virginia Creeper is a self clinging vigorous climber of which there are several varieties: my choice would be Parthenocissus tricuspidata for the way its glossy leaves form rhythmical patterns on the wall or fence. The variety ‘Veitchii’ has darker red foliage. Any of these climbers will quickly cover a wall or unsightly shed.
If you have a large garden my tree of choice would be the Liquidamber and its leaves of the richest claret will remain on the tree well into the winter. Perfect for a smaller garden, Amelanchier, especially multi-stemmed varieties will not only give you autumn reds and oranges but beautiful white or pink blossom in spring.
Other autumn favorites are the japanese maples, such a Acer palmatum var. dissectum Atropurpureum Group and the oak leaved Hygrangea: H. quercifolia shown in this image (centre) with Amelanchier (left) just starting to turn. If the winter is mild this Hydrangea may keep its leaves.
Plants for Free!
Many perennial plants (those that generally die down in winter and come up again in the spring) that have outgrown their space or become congested, can be divided in autumn when the days get cooler and active growth stops. Autumn division works well for Hellebores and peonies but leave lily of the valley (Convalleria) , Epimedium and Ulvaria until after flowering next year if possible. Whenever you divide them make sure that there is plenty of root and trim excess foliage away, keep the divisions moist and sheltered until established. Putting them in pots may help to protect them temporarily until ready to be planted out in a new area of your garden.
Don’t forget to leave ornamental seed heads of sedums, grasses and other perennials to give interesting winter shapes in your border.
Check list for October:
Scarify lawns and apply an autumn fertiliser
Plant bare rooted roses
Establish new hedges
Lift tender perennials (or to save room take cuttings) and bring tender plants indoors
Dig over heavy soil as it is cleared of annual flowers and vegetables
Fill bird feeders after cleaning them out.
Raise pots and containers on special pot supports or pieces of wood or brick to improve drainage over winter
Check list for November:
Prune back the shrubs that put on a lot of branch length over the summer (such as Buddleias & Laveteras) by about a third
Plant tulips at 3 times the depth of the bulb.
Disinfect greenhouses and potting benches, cover the glass with bubble wrap
Collect deciduous autumn leaves to make leave mould: TIP by mowing them with the grass, they get shredded and will compost in double quick time. Store the shredded leaves in sealed black plastic bags, with holes punched in, leave for 12 months and then you can use it as a seed or potting compost, soil conditioner or mulch.
Coming soon: Hot tips for protecting your bulbs from squirrels…
Need more advice? Kathy Taylor Garden Designs charges £45 per hour for an on-site garden advice session or a flat fee of £75 for a design consultation. To book call 020 8999 8310 or 07884 073545.