Final acts before the curtain of Fall
Those nights have certainly started to pull in now but by day should at least still have some sunflowers smiling at you, if they haven't been flattened by those persistent winds of late.
It's sort of coming towards the end of the show really, isn't it? If you've planned it out right you should still be getting reasonable border displays right through September and October - that is if we're fortunate enough to have a bit of an Indian summer. Dahlias and chrysanthemums spring readily to min. Check their canes and supports are still doing their job. But your baskets and containers will certainly be looking a bit hackneyed now, if not finished completely. If they are still trying, then so should you by keeping up the dead-heading. However, its really time to start doing a bit of clearing up around the garden and of course making full use of that compost heap.
But before you start disassembling all your hard work earlier in the year, do make an effort (if you haven't already started) to take off the seed heads from your favourite flowers, either to fully dry out and save in envelopes in a cool, dry place in the house or to scatter them around - like aquilegia and foxgloves - where you would like to see them appear next year. With poppy seeds, remember it is not always sufficient to scatter them on the surface and leave it at that. They'll germinate better if you disturb the topsoil a bit with a rake or lightly with a fork.
Cuttings should also be taken now of penstemons and shrubs like lavender, choosing non-flowering shoots. Others you can try include aucuba, berberis, ceanothus, lonicera and philadephus. Peg down flowering shoots of carnations into the soil to root, otherwise this year's display may have been their last as they will die off.
If you have camellias, they will be forming flower buds now to bloom next spring. Despite all the rain we've been having lately, the winds have quite a drying effect, so make sure they get plenty of water or the buds will drop.
Keep watering nerines also for a good Autumn show. Start pruning those rambler roses if they've finished flowering. You can also choose healthy stems on these and other roses now for cuttings by removing the soft growth at the tip - about a foot. Remove the lower leaves and insert about two thirds of their length in a slit of soul in a sheltered part of the garden.
Give your hedges a final trim for the year now and keep mowing the lawns regularly. They'll also benefit from a spiking to improve aeration. Plant prepared hyacinth bulbs in bowls, so too freesias and early narcissus. Don't forget to order your main spring bulbs for planting this Autumn.
Graham C Garnett