A bit later than usual, October looks to be bringing in the tasks that usually would have been started in late September. The long hot days have now given way to the first of the autumnal storm systems that move in from the ocean, and as the evenings draw in the leaves are starting to change on the deciduous trees.
For the ornamental garden, I try to look at each plant’s potential and needs, rather than cutting everything back to an inch of it’s life in preparation for a long bleak winter ahead. There are 2 immediate examples that spring to mind: one about wildlife, the other more practical.
- This year the Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia) are still throwing out new stalks with flower buds and promise to keep at it until halted by frost, and other plants such as Cranesbill (Geranium) may continue to put on a show of flowers now that rain has fallen. The flowering season is still going. On a practical note, fleshy rooted plants such as the Red Hot Pokers, Crocosmia, Day Lilies (Hemerocallis) and such, require winter protection and apart from removing excessive soggy detritus that could cause rot, are best left alone until spring.
- If some large flower stalks are left standing during the autumn tidy up – my favourite is Mullein (Verbascum) – overwintering bugs will hide in them, and come a winter freeze, the birds will find a new larder to keep them going and provide a spectacle for the bird lover in the depth of winter. Aesthetically, the vertical component also adds interest to the garden, particularly in a light snowfall.
Now is also the time to plan the spring colour and plant daffodil bulbs, but tulips should left until it is colder (e.g. the first frosts). Enjoy the new season and all the good things it brings.