Friday 2nd October 2020

October? Already?

So, what’s the story, Morning Glory?

That bygone duo, Flanders and Swann, had it about right –

‘Then October adds a gale

Wind and slush and rain and hail…’

Well, at least it’s not too cold. Yet.

So here we are for another socially-distanced Friday Group session.

Wave, please, everyone! No? Suit yourselves.

Plant Ident.

This week it’s all about autumn performers. Invaluable to the gardener, as they extend the season right through to the first frosts. And beyond! Zingy colours, seed heads, panache – others may be putting their gardens to bed, but why? There’s still so much to enjoy.

Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Orpheus’

Previously known as Asters, these late-flowering herbaceous perennials come into their own now. Vibrant lavender-blue flowers surround a central yellow disc and are borne in clusters above lance-shaped leaves. Apparently, the yellow centres turn pink when pollinated by bees. A kind of traffic-light communication system. Isn’t nature wonderful? Clump-forming and better for being staked; likes full sun or part shade. Dies back in the winter.

Rudbeckia fulgida var sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

The photo fails to do these beauties justice. En masse (e.g. at Sussex Prairies) they are breathtaking. Another member of the Asteraceae family and a herbaceous perennial as well. Once the sunshine-yellow daisy-style flowers are over, the brown cone-shaped seed heads add interest to the winter garden, especially when touched with early morning dew or frost. Tough as old boots, and essential for the autumn. Thrives in moist, well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. Increase by division. A.G.M.

Fuchsia magellicana

Such a beautiful, hardy shrub. Deep purple sepals are enclosed in delicate crimson petals, the delicate flowers dangling gracefully like earrings. They are small but plentiful and are a terrific addition to a garden border. Can grow to 2.5 m high, and will cope well with being pruned back to the ground in April. Manages in pretty well any soil, but likes to be sheltered and out of the wind. Don’t we all?

Salvia rosmarinus

Many herbs are sub shrubs (having a woody base and soft upper growth) and Rosemary is one such. A fantastic plant for the dry garden, with many culinary uses. Lovely to use in a cut flower arrangement, as its evergreen needle-shaped leaves are aromatic. Its flowers can be blue, white or pink, depending on the variety, and appear in spring/summer.

Calendula ‘Indian Prince’

One of the best hardy annuals – plants which can be sown now (but get your skates on), grown into small plants, then overwintered in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. They can cope with the cold, but not with incessant wind and rain. Who could? Plant out in February/ March 30cms apart. Other hardy annuals include Sweet Peas, Ammis, Cornflowers. Fab for cutting.


An annual. But a half-hardy annual. These plants cannot survive outdoors until all danger of frost is past. They are sown, grown, set seed and die all in the same growing season. So put these packets of seed aside until next year. Phew! Petunias are brilliant for bedding schemes, patios, pots, troughs, baskets and borders. They take ages to germinate, so need to be started earlier than many other half-hardy types like Cosmos and Nicotiana.

Ginkgo biloba

Also known as the Maidenhair Tree, the Ginkgo is an ancient and venerable species, one which has survived for thousands of years. So old, it is sometimes referred to as a living fossil. As is this blogger. Trees are perennials with trunks, supporting branches and leaves. Surprisingly, this one is coniferous and, as its name suggests, its fan-shaped leaves are 2 -lobed. They turn bright yellow in the autumn. Slow-growing and much loved in the Garden House garden.

Jobs for the week

Masked and mysterious, Friday Groupers distributed themselves around the garden to get on with all the little jobs on hand.

Some enjoyed it

Whilst others,

it’s fair to say,

weren’t quite so enthusiastic

But did a lovely job, nonetheless

Terrific terrarium a-go-go

Seed sowing

Salads for overwintering. Who knew? Mizuna, Mustard, Lamb’s Lettuce, plus herbs like Coriander, Rosemary and Oregano.

Fill wine box with compost. Sow seeds thinly. Sift soil to cover lightly.

Covering the box with cling film encourages germination

Place in greenhouse until the seedlings start to grow.

Great interest was shown in the impressively extensive number of wine boxes at Garden House

Make autumn wreaths

Assemble a cornucopia of autumnal delights: cones, rosehips, physalis, greenery, toffee apples, whatevs.

Wind into, onto and in-between a prepared twig wreath

And, hey presto! A wreath magnifique!

Now eat the toffee apples.

Pot on Pansy seedlings

One plant per small pot

Now, where did those toffee apples go?

Hyacinths for indoor flowering

If prepared hyacinths are established today, they will be in flower in 3 months time – so should be ready by 2nd January. Start the timer now.

These pink bulbs are H. ‘Fondant’

Leave about one third of the bulb above soil level. Water sparingly, label and put into a cool, dark place like a shed or garage until the hyacinth shoots are about 5 cm high. (They need to be below 9 degrees C. to force them into growth.) Then bring indoors into a fairly cool room to bring them gently into flower. After flowering, the bulbs can be planted in the garden.

These white bulbs are H. ‘Aiolos’

Hyacinth bulbs can also be placed on top of glass forcing vases filled with water. The base of the bulb should barely touch the liquid. Keep an eye on them as they will need a little topping up as they start to grow, but be careful not to add too much, as the bulbs may rot. Same treatment as above: into a cool, dark place until shoots reach 5 cm.

Work in the greenhouse

Sow hardy annuals in pots, pick any remaining tomatoes, remove tomato plants, plant Chrysanthemums. It’s all going on in here.

Looking good

Cut back the Ficus carica

Some like this job

Others couldn’t give a fig

Prune the Rosemary

Prune the Raspberries

These ones are summer fruiting, and bear fruit on growth made the previous season. They need to be pruned now to remove old, dead and diseased wood and give the new wood plenty of time to grow for next summer’s crop.

Pruned and perfect!

Don’t get muddled and blow raspberries at the summer prunes


Some even found time to enjoy the traditional Friday Group Cake Break. After all….