Autumn in the Garden

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…so said Keats in his “Ode to Autumn” some 200 years ago. The time of harvest and vibrant colours especially in our gardens.  So this edition, Westender takes a look at 

Autumn’s Glorious Garden

Autumn in the garden

In the latter end of the year, isn’t it funny how we tend to think that our garden jobs are coming to an end.  Sure, the growing period may well be over, but in terms of what’s still to be tended to before the onset of winter, there are an abundance of tasks to complete.  Westender speaks to Martin McCarron of West End Garden Centre on Peel Street to get the best advice on what needs doing in your amber autumn garden.

My tiny little garden is my absolute sanctuary here in the West End. When the kids are squabbling, the TV is blaring and the possibility of some quiet time is simply impossible, it’s into that little green space I head.  

Autumn in the garden is a mixed bag.  It’s harvest so produce should be aplenty and as for autumn jobs, there is tons to do to prepare for winter and the spring ahead.  

The beautiful Japanese Maple

September Song

September can still be reasonably warm.  We can still have some fabulous colour in our garden through the autumn months.  We even have certain plants blooming twice.  Martin says,
“Most summer bedding plants should still have colour on them (providing they have been getting deadheaded and looked after) right through until the first frosts, so September can be fantastic with just summer bedding.  However at this time things start to move onto foliage colour/berries as autumn approaches. Some of my favourites at that time of year include skimmia golden globe and leucothoe curly red.”

Certainly, autumn can be incredible to watch the colours changing in your garden.  It’s my favourite time of the year to watch my stunning Japanese Maple turn from it’s summer foliage of plum leaves to a burning, vibrant red come September/October.

Harvest Time

As well as our plants and flowers, autumn also brings harvest.  What does Martin advise regarding when to pick and when to leave a little longer?
“In September there is a lot to harvest including several fruit and veg. The most prolific fruits tend to be apples and pears. A good tip to determine if your apples or pears are ripe, simply cup it in the palm of your hand and give it a small twist. The apple should come away easily. If it doesn’t, they are not quite there.
You should also have (maincrop) potatoes, runner beans and onions from your veg patch.”

Remember that fallen fruit can be put out for birds and as the weather deteriorates we need to ensure our feathered friends have food.  Keeping birds into your garden is an easy way to keep away garden pests, so we should always make sure our bird tables and trees have fat balls and seeds in plentiful supply when they need it through the colder months.

Skimmia Japonica

Give That Garden a Tidy

In terms of tidying and preparing your plants for blooming next year, it’s time to

remove dead plant remains from around the garden.  Your borders, vegetable patches and final weeding can top up your compost bin contents.  

Next it’s time to get raking.  Our street is lined with enormous Sycamores.  By early October my little garden is a-wash with fallen leaves. Raking those leaves up not only tidies the garden but ensures that any little plants such as alpines which are don’t like damp conditions, are protected from damp leaves decaying on them.  

Moving onto your containers and pots, move them under cover if possible or inside a greenhouse.  If this isn’t possible, insulate the container and cover to protect from frost.  It’s really important to do this in case a sudden frost occurs.  A pleasant and warm autumn day can easily lead to a clear cold night where an unexpected frost can strike.  I learned this to my peril a few years ago and lost a lovely olive tree I had brought on from a young shrub.  There is no need to buy specific plant insulation – fleece, newspapers, blankets can all be used to keep our plants warm over winter.  

Let’s Get Planting

The garden is tidy, the produce picked, the plants protected.  Although winter is approaching, autumn is the time to plant spring bulbs of course. What does Martin advise going into the soil at this time of year for spring blooming?
“Autumn is a fantastic time to plant in the garden, traditionally this was when most planting was carried out. Daffodils, tulips, bluebells to name a few bulbs which can be planted that will give you an incredible show of colour in spring. The key is to make sure and get them planted before the frosts start. Then sit back and wait till March/April for them to poke through the soil and brighten up your spring.”

Autumn in the garden
Leucothoe Curly Red

Inside Colour

I enjoy autumn in the garden almost as much as I enjoy spring.  But there comes a point when nature takes over and the colour and light begins to fade.  Can we then look to our inside plants for some joy?  What late bloomers that can give a little bit of colour indoors as the darker nights arrive?
Martin says “My favourite house plant in autumn to give a show of colour is cyclamen persicum. Cyclamen flowers can be frilly or plain and come in a range of shades of red, pink and white. If you keep deadheading them they will flower all the way through winter until spring of the following year giving amazing value for money. Peace lilies usually flower in spring and their white hooded bracts can last around a month. You may see some flowers in the autumn months as well, and you just need to deadhead them when they’re past their best.”

Autumn in the garden for me is often the calmest time of the year; a time of reflection, to watch the colours and light change, a time to breathe out.  “You are closer to God in the garden, than anywhere else on earth”.  How very true.

West End Garden Centre
44-45 Peel Street
G11 5LU
t – 0141 334 5222

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