The Green Scene

The green Scene sweet-william

The pageant of the seasons continues and autumn the harvest season beckons, the season of mists and fruits; a lovely time to enjoy nature. The swallows have said goodbye and soon it will be fall. Each month has its own special charm in the garden and I love these autumn months.

The country will soon be covered in gold, crimson and copper as the leaves fall. The soil is still warm so we can welcome the autumn flowering bulbs such as crocus speciosus, nerine bowderii, the colchicum and the lovely gladiolus murielae.

As I write this, in my own garden the trees and shrubs are covered with spider webs and the hawthorns are covered with fruit, it’s a busy time in the garden.

To have success in gardening it’s important to understand the soil. Your plants need nutrients and especially at this time of year. The three main nutrients are Nitrogen – for the leaves, Phosphorous – for the roots and Potassium – for the flowers and fruits. So apply plenty of organic matter and help this with the odd fertiliser to meet these requirements.

The gREEN sCENE Foxglove-701785

The days are getting shorter and there is a noticeable nip in the air – a sure sign that you can now harvest your vegetable crops. You can plant onion sets and shallots now, and transplant spring cabbage. Sow broad beans, hardy peas and lettuce in a sheltered spot and plant garlic cloves and some herbs. Start your winter digging. Give Brussel sprouts and winter cabbage a feed of general fertiliser. It’s also a good time to plant evergreen and deciduous plants and blackcurrant bushes.

The main job now is to plant all spring flowers and bulbs – forget-me-nots, bellis, wallflowers, pansies, foxgloves, Sweet William, Canterbury bells, tulips, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, hyacinths and outdoor cyclamen. As a special treat buy three bulbs of the lovely fritallaria imperalis the crown imperial (snake’s head lily), you must plant them eight inches deep in a sunny position.

It is also a good time to plant herbaceous perennials, roses and heathers. And remember you can still plant many lilies during October. Give your grass an autumn feed and don’t forget to raise the blades of your machine.

Remember, gardeners need to be planners. All gardeners know that winter will arrive before we know it and though it can be a harsh season there is still much to enjoy in the garden. Plan ahead and ease the winter landscape with good planting and displays. Winter flowering heathers are very valuable in the garden now, particularly Erica Carnea and Erica Darlyensis. Plant up containers for a winter display using variegated shrubs and heathers.

The great weather we had in July followed by rain in August has been great for the butterflies; very welcome visitors to our parks and gardens. Keep an eye out for them. Legend has it that if a butterfly is close by then those we have loved and lost are also close; a nice thought the next time a butterfly joins you in the garden.
So you have a few ideas now of the tasks in the weeks ahead and the plants and bulbs to select. As the old biblical quote reads, “for everything there is a season…” This is the harvest season – enjoy it.

On a different note, in our last issue I wrote about the dieback fungus on our ash trees and the damage it is doing. Now the horticultural world is on the alert for the return of the killer Dutch elm disease. This fungal disease is spread from tree to tree by the elm bark beetle. Many years ago this disease wiped out twenty-five million elms worldwide. Locals may remember the beautiful elm walk on the roadway at Herbert Park that was destroyed by this disease. The bad news is that it has recently been spotted in Brighton. I will keep you up-to-date with any developments but let’s hope our elms are not under threat.

Pictured: Sweet William, left, and foxgloves.

By James O’Doherty