I know that I keep on saying how important this time of the year is for planning for colour next Spring, but we really do need to plan now for a fantastic 2018.
Jobs to do now before the onset of dark nights and more rain include, in no particular order:
(i) trimming hedges to keep good lines during the winter, and to ensure that no birds are disturbed if they roost in the hedge during the coldest months;
(ii) giving your lawn some tender loving care by scarifying (removing the moss), spiking compacted areas and feeding with Autumn feed; and
(iii) splitting up congested herbaceous perennials and general tidying of the borders. If you garden with wildlife in mind, there is no need to be too precious about removing everything that has ‘gone over’. It is better to leave seed heads in place as winter food, and dried herbaceous stems for beneficial insects to hibernate in over the cold months.
If you only have time to do one job over the next few months, then please make time to rake up all the leaves from your lawns. This keeps the grass in good condition and provides the gardener with leaf mould, one of the best things in the world for improving soil structure.
I always plant up some pots with bulbs to enjoy in the spring. This year, in addition to my 2 pots of Tete a Tete daffodils, I am planning 2 pots of purple tulips. Tulips in pots only last one year, whereas my Tete a Tete are in their 6th year now. All they need is topdressing and feeding, and seem to be immune to vine weevil. Tulips, on the other hand, are a bit fussy, but when one can buy 15 bulbs for £5, I think that the aesthetic enjoyment is good value. Talking about vine weevils, now is the time to treat susceptible plants including primulas and heucheras, and any plant in a pot. Adult vine weevils also have the cheek to come into your house to hibernate, so shake houseplants to dislodge any unwelcome visitors.
Don’t forget your winter flowering pansies. Nothing beats their cheery flowers and amazing winter hardiness, but sometimes it is good to try something new. Last year I planted up a special hanging basket with hardy ferns and a beautiful hellebore, and this looked amazing for the whole winter, and was so pretty in a shady spot that I left it in situ for the summer as well.
Plants that I tried this year and will not grow again include Tomato Idil, with tasteless yellow fruits and climbing yellow courgette, which was not a good cropper. However, after saying that I will never grow cucumbers again, I grew the best Moneymaker cucumbers that I have ever grown this year, so plan to grow them again next year!
Have fun looking at all the bulb catalogues, and enjoy the last warm days of the year. Autumn is going to be spectacular this year, and I have a feeling that winter will be with us before we know it.