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Gardening Autumn 2008
A series of articles on gardening in London Colney by Anne Kitchener
With the arrival of September there are signs in the garden that summer is coming to an end and autumn is approaching. There are things to do in the garden to get it ready it for the winter and to make the most of the changing seasons. It is at this time that I like to wander around my garden to take stock and consider what has been successful and what has been less successful over the previous twelve months. Hopefully I have remembered to make a note of any changes I have already thought about making, and will make note of any other changes I would like to find the time to do. I have found that moving plants around has been more successful in spring rather than the autumn. With this in mind I have found it useful to prepare areas where I wish to replant those plants that I plan to move in spring - also making a note as I go along otherwise I will get to next spring and wonder why on earth I have left such a large bare area. I've also found it helpful to add compost to the prepared area. An exception to moving plants in spring rather than in autumn has been some large clumps of Montbretia which by the end of last summer had become congested and flowering was poor. I lifted these in September, thinned the clumps of corms and replanted the healthiest looking ones. This was successful as it has rewarded me with much improved flowering this year. As autumn moves on and perennials begin to die down, I tidy these by cutting the dead or dying stems off at ground level unless there are attractive seed heads. These I leave to be cut back in early spring. I don't cut back Penstemons now, leaving this until late March/early April as the retained stems give the crowns of the plants the extra protection that they require. I have quite a few pots with bedding plants and tender perennials, and also a few with hardy plants that can be left outside all year. Before the first frosts I bring indoors those tender plants that I want to keep until next year to overwinter in the conservatory, or take cuttings which will take up less room. My conservatory does tend to get rather congested as it is only small and it is not possible to keep everything even though I would like to. I'll also need to leave space for trays for starting seeds off indoors next spring. I replant those pots which held bedding plants with pansies or primulas - or whatever is available in the garden centre. I don't bother to line terracotta pots with plastic as I do in summer as in winter the pots may become too waterlogged. Instead of standing pots in a saucer for water I stand them on feet which improves circulation and helps to prevent them becoming waterlogged. Last year for the first time I sowed some mixed salad leaves in a pot in September. As well as providing me with leaves during the autumn, there was still some left to use at Christmas. I will try this again this year. I used a mix of cut-and-come-again salad leaves of which there are lots of different sorts available. The unseasonably high winds at the end of June this year blew down a Sumac tree in my front garden. This has encouraged me to take a fresh look at the front garden and I am now starting to think of ways to make further changes there. My garden is constantly changing and evolving, sometime in response to unforeseen events. But the garden shouldn't stay the same from one year to the next that is the fun of gardening.