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Gardening Autumn 2007
A series of articles on gardening in London Colney by Anne Kitchener
I have been gardening in London Colney for nearly 18 years and live in the south of the village. Over the years I have learned through trial and error what suits my garden best and how to get the best results. I am still learning. As autumn arrives there are many routine things to do and I have adapted these to suit my garden. I am not too keen on gardening in poor weather, so do not always manage to carry out everything that needs to be done before winter arrives in earnest. As a result, I try to prioritise those things which I really want to get done for the best results.
One of the first things to do to prepare for winter is looking after my outdoor pots. Any tender perennials in the pots need to be brought in to warmer surroundings before the first frost, so it is a bit of a guessing game when to do this. I usually have a mixture of tender perennials, shrubs and bedding in containers, so have to decide to discard the bedding plants slightly early in order to save the tender perennials from succumbing to an early frost. The shrubs can then be trimmed to maintain their shape. Any roots circling round the inside of the pot can be removed before repotting. Winter bedding such as primulas and pansies can be added to the pot for a mixed display. I also like to add crocus or daffodil bulbs at the bottom of the pot which improves a flagging display in spring. Lilies can be planted in pots at this time of year; I have had much more success from growing lilies in pots rather than in the borders.
The amount of border tidying done depends on how much time I have for this. I leave attractive seedheads to be removed in the spring. Seeds attract birds and the seedheads can look very attractive when covered in frost. Now is a good time to move plants and I try to make a mental or written note during the summer of plants which would benefit from being moved or of spaces which need to be filled. I have had more success with planting new plants in spring rather than in autumn.
Along with tidying the borders, buddleias benefit from deadheading and reducing the length of the branches by about one third to help prevent wind damage. This can also be done for tall rose bushes. Virginia creeper can also be trimmed now after the colourful leaves have fallen. The ivy in my garden is very mature and throughout autumn is covered in flowers which attract many insects; consequently I prefer to trim ivy in late winter before nesting begins. Climbers need to be tied in to prevent wind damage. September is a good time to trim conifer hedges to maintain their shape.
If time permits the lawn is given an overhaul. Toadstools often appear and these can be picked and disposed of. To prevent reappearance a thorough rake – I can recommend using an electric rake for this – and aerating using a fork is helpful. A top dressing with sharp sand brushed into the holes is also helpful, but I don’t always manage to get round to doing this. This treatment also discourages moss.
I have a collection of glass hyacinth vases and I like to use these for a display to brighten up the house in the weeks after Christmas. For a display in time for Christmas they need to be prepared by mid September, but I prefer to leave this a little later. These are prepared by filling the glass with water and putting the bulb in the top so that it sits just above or at the water surface. One of the problems I have had is that the flower head is so heavy that it falls over within the glass and spoils the display. I have found that adding coarse grit around the bulb in the top of the glass at the time of preparation helps support the flowering bulb.
There is a lot to do, and it does not always get done. Perhaps this means there will be more to do in the spring, but I have found that nothing comes to too much harm if jobs are not completed. The important thing is that the garden does not become a chore but remains a pleasure.
Ann Kitchener