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 Salvia ‘Amistad‘, 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:
- Finishing collecting seed from my annuals, including Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’, Cerinthe major, and Papaver somniferum ‘Black Paeony’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Moving any self-seeded foxgloves into their final flowering positions.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.]