In The Garden: October

Welcome to my new monthly In The Garden report, which begins in this glorious (and possibly my favourite) month of October. The cool, damp air is filled with the attar of log fires and fallen leaves, the daylight is dimming, the foliage in the garden is dying back, and still there are a multitude of floral charms to delight, thrill, and sometimes astonish the senses.

Looking Good in October


One of the aforementioned astonishing charms in my garden is the mass of sweetpeas that still show no signs of stopping. I have more or less ceased picking them as the stems are now much shorter, and I don’t look at them too closely as in many cases the petals have succumbed to aphids, and are more prone to getting sodden with rain. But in these cooler, wetter days the stems are nonetheless promising to produce and last till the first frosts.





Behind the sweetpeas in the back garden is a mass of Salvias including SalviaAmistad, its purple fingers growing on shoots almost as tall as the sweetpeas. On the opposite side of the path, ‘Wendy’s Wish’, ‘Love and Wishes’, and ‘Ember’s Wish’ from the ‘Wish’ triplet of salvias are looking just as good.



My dalhias remain in full stride. In particular, ‘Totally Tangerine’ has been going strong since late July, and has not yet lost steam, while ‘Café-au-Lait’ is providing me with more flowers than I know what to do with.




In the front garden, I am enjoying the upward-fluting petals of the Cyclamen hederifolium against the dark leaf-mould beneath the ‘Morello’ cherry sapling.



While some ferns are going over, the new foliage of the bronze-leaved Dryopteris erythrosora looks fresh and neat against the terracotta bricks of the terrace.



Ammi visagna is – just – clinging on and still providing pretty filler stems for my vases.



The Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ has tolerated its move into a larger pot and is still delighting with its diminuitive, neat blooms. When they age and become papery, I will see how they dry.



A plant that was underrated by me when I first bought it, this unknown Nemesia tumbles charmingly from its pot, gracing the air with its delicious vanilla scent. I brought a sprig indoors, and though it lasted only a day or so, the kitchen was filled with its gorgeous aroma.



Three or four crowns of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ continue to potter about in the borders quite contentedly of their own accord, asking nothing, giving plenty in return. The perfect plant?




Pretty window boxes of Erigeron, apple mint and sedum look set to carry on through till November.


The second flush on my roses has dallied disgracefully. But I love these tight flame-coloured buds, despite their faithless promise of blooms.


And finally – though I hesitate to put this under ‘Looking Good’ – three surviving Nicotiana seedlings eventually did their thing, one of which has possibly been taking banned substances while my back was turned. It comes in at about 5’9″, and I can’t say I’m delighted about those fleshy leaves blocking the light from everything behind it; I rescued an ailing alstromeria just in time from beneath its gigantic shadow. It’s going to need a compost heap all of its own when I cut it back.


Gardening Jobs for October

There are plenty of tasks to do in the Scottish garden in October. This month, my garden jobs have included:

  1. Finishing collecting seed from my annuals, including Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’, Cerinthe major, and Papaver somniferum ‘Black Paeony’.
  2. Spreading last year’s leaf mould on the garden, particularly around my Cyclamen hederifolium, which prefer plenty of organic matter but would find compost or well-rotted manure too rich, and begin collecting fallen leaves for next year’s batch.
  3. Moving perennials that need a new spot. Now is the perfect time, as the soil is still warm and they will have time to root into their new homes before the frosts arrive.
  4. Taking cuttings of my favourite plants, either those that are not hardy and may not survive winter, or those that I wish to increase stock of. My cuttings include osteospermum, salvias, French tarragon, penstemons, mint, lemon verbena, and Nepeta.
  5. Cutting back fading perennials, being careful to leave those that still have autumn interest. Sweetpeas can also be cut down once they are past their best, but I leave their roots to rot down in the soil.
  6. Moving any self-seeded foxgloves into their final flowering positions.
  7. Monitoring the temperature forecast and bring houseplants indoors on colder nights. My rule of thumb is to bring tender houseplants indoors once night-time temperatures have dropped below 9 degrees.
  8. Planting bulbs. I plant all my bulbs such as daffodils, irises, crocuses, alliums and muscari in October, but leave tulips until November or even December, once the first frosts have been.
  9. Turning the compost heap every fortnight, and continuing to add chopped garden cuttings, woody matter such as shredded paper and egg boxes, and kitchen vegetable waste. After turning, I often ‘mulch’ the top of my heap with a modest layer of heat-giving grass cuttings for insulation and a nitrogen boost.
  10. Ensuring that tall plants such as dahlias and nicotiana are staked against winds and rain.

And so before I end, here follow a few views of the garden this month. As you will see, the slugs have been at my kale, and the Christmas tree has yet to find its spiritual home in the garden, but good things have been happening too: my Clematis montana ‘Miss Christine’ is obediently, nay, enthusiastically, making its way up the arch, my Sempervivum has divided into about 40 tiny individuals (I am looking forward to giving some away as gifts), my new tool rack is doing an excellent job of keeping the tools neat and tidy, and my native primroses, which I grew from seed, have flourished into many healthy plants that I will be planting around the garden and elsewhere (more about that later).




I realise it has been many months since I last showed you pictures of my garden. The reason for this is that I have been rethinking the way I describe the month-by-month development and seasonal changes that go on here, and it has taken me a while to come up with a tentative format. For a long time, I have been a fairly dedicated partaker in Helen at The Patient Gardener’s End of Month View, but I no longer feel that this wonderful meme quite does everything I need it to do. I fancied a change; besides, EOMV requires me to be on time with my photos, and I’m not a deadline kinda girl. There are other memes I would like to join in with, such as Tuesday View, Bloom Day and Foliage Day, but these have even stricter deadlines than Helen’s, and my opportunities for taking photos in the garden are too limited by my working week, the prevailing weather, and restricted daylight hours for me to be precise about days, or even sometimes weeks, when it comes to posting. I’ve therefore come up with a Swiss-army meme of my own called In The Garden, which will encompass a month-by-month view, ‘looking good now’, and monthly garden jobs. I’ll aim to post during the month I’m talking about: even I can cope with a 30-day deadline! I’m not scouting for joiners, since I realise there are enough memes out there already for everyone to be keeping up with. But if you wish to join in, then by all means do so, linking to my post and leaving a comment so that I can find yours.]


Add yours →

  1. I love the way your patio turned out – it looks so cozy. My favorites this month are the salvias and D. ‘Cafe au Lait,’ which I must buy for next year!

  2. You’ve reminded me about the ‘Cafe su Lait’i must look for it. Your garden is still full of interest in mid autumn.

  3. Fantastic post. It is great to have a peep into your garden and see what things are doing well. I am very jealous of the sweet peas, which I love, but I cannot grow here. I am very interested by the nemesia. It is perfumed and passes my test that it it attracts bees but it is a new one for me. It goes straight onto my “wish list” . Amelia

    • Thank you very much! The sweetpeas are something I have managed to get about right; what a shame you cannot grow them. I have to say, I am not sure about the bee-attracting qualities of the nemesia. I can’t remember many bees around it, but I may be wrong there. There are millions of cultivars, and I should think there will be some that are better for bees than others; no doubt if you choose carefully you’ll obtain one that is good for pollinators and smells delicious!

  4. Great to see such beautiful flowers, stone walls, droplets of rain. What a lovely garden you have! I wish I could grow sweet peas as healthy as yours, it’s a struggle in Egypt to keep them alive let alone thriving and flowering – but I always plant them anyway, accompanied by a wish and a prayer. As for salvias, I admire their lovely colours but find they are usually attacked by mealybugs in our garden, as is the herb sage, so I rarely have much success. I think you should let the nicotiana have its head – after all, it can hardly be blamed for thriving…
    Nice to see a picture of your well-organised tool rack!

    • Thank you Sylvia… I should think growing sweetpeas in Egypt is a challenge! You are right about the nicotiana of course, it’s not its fault, it’s my fault for not checking the final height before buying the seeds. Though this one’s brothers are a civilised two-foot high, the ones that didn’t succumb to molluscs, that is. Ah – I have just checked Sarah Raven’s site, and she states that the height should be three-foot. So goodness knows what happened to this one. I will write in to the company with this photo and see what their reaction is!

  5. I can’t imagine having more Cafe au Lait flowers than I knew what to do with. If only we were neighbours, I could perhaps cadge a few stems!

  6. Love the attar, etc. in the start of the post. Gave me a totally different perspective of fall in Scotland! The meme sounds like a great idea, I look forward to reading it.

  7. The only sign of autumn in your garden seems to be your cherry tree dropping its leaves. How lovely to still have sweet peas going strong. Am also very impressed by your organised and tidy tools and that you built that lovely terrace yourself ! Enjoy all those gorgeous blooms.

  8. The new patio area has really taken off! A worthy inclusion for Looking Good. Hope you’ve enjoyed plenty of opportunities to sit out there.

  9. You could be the marketing manager for Cafe au Lait, I think it’s fair to say we all love it. Garden is looking good

  10. smallsunnygarden 19 October 2016 — 5:42 am

    It all looks beautifully autumnal. And your picture is perhaps the first time I’ve ever really noticed that Nemesia might be a lovely plant to grow. 😉 I like your rethink of the monthly theme as well!

  11. A great post. Full of interest and ideas. It is quite amazing just how many flowers are in the garden in the middle of October. I would like to get on with the big clean up and bulb plant but do not want to destroy the flowers that are blooming everywhere. I have manged to get to some of the climbing roses and started to prune and rehang.
    well done, I look forward to the next one.

  12. A lovely post. How lovely to have more dahlias than you can cope with. I am definitely going to plant Cafe au Lait next year. Everywhere I see it, it’s doing really well. I’m so envious of your neat tool shed. I feel quite ashamed of my efforts. All my tools are slung in a heap in the corner of the potting shed. I have now put this on my winter must- do list. I never really worry about the deadlines for the themes. I just join in, even if it’s a few days late. I don’t know if I’m breaking any protocols or anything. No complaints yet…. I’ll join in with your meme though, as its so flexible. All the best- Karen

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