Glorious September Light

The September days may be getting shorter, and the sun is lower in the sky, which casts wonderful light on the flowers of Rudbeckias, Heleniums, Echinacea, Japanese Anemones. In early September, the vibrant annual flowers of Cosmos, Zinnias, Tithonias and beautiful Dahlias, all seem to improve, through to the first frosts.


The secret to keeping flowers looking their best is regular deadheading and feeding. Tomato feed high in potash is ideal to keep flower buds coming. If you read the gardening books of around 50 years ago, September was the time when gardeners were preparing for the first frosts and putting the garden to bed for the year. Not anymore! There are still a few more glorious months of gardening to come and enjoy.

How has your garden coped with the drought?

Now is the time to see how the garden has coped with the hot and dry summer and prepare the garden for the future. Our horticulturalists have discovered that flower beds which have been dug in with large quantities of organic matter resulted in better water retention.

Using garden compost, well-rotted farmyard manure and bags of soil improver combined with feeding the soil with a fertiliser enabled plants to grow better and withstand the heat and drought. Avoid feed with high nitrogen levels as this produces lush growth but requires more watering. They also found that where they had used ground cover plants under taller plants these kept the sun off the soil. Planted tubs and containers did better grouped together, by keeping the roots cooler and preventing them from drying out too quickly. Tubs in the shade, with good watering, feeding and deadheading have looked good all summer, despite the heat.

Plant a tree - save the planet

During September Van Hage plant areas will be receiving delivery of trees. Ornamental and fruit trees are so important for any garden, whatever the size and space available, giving structure and backbone. Trees provide so much interest whether in leaf shape, colour, flowers, or fruit and add so much autumn colour.

Small trees, especially fruit trees are great for growing in tubs if space is limited. As trees grow, they also provide welcome shade in summer sunshine and an ideal habitat for birds and wildlife. Autumn is a good time to plant trees as the soil is warm from the Summer and Autumn rains. This enables plants to establish a good root system, before the cold of January and February sets in, which gets plants off to a better start than in spring. When planting soak the root ball prior to placing in the hole, preferably a square hole rather than round to encourage better root development. Improve the soil with a light feed of bone meal when firming and make sure the tree is planted at the same level as was grown in the pot. If it’s in a windy position stake, but then remove these after 18 months. Thoroughly water trees and shrubs as these can take a year to establish a good root system and finally mulch with a good organic compost.

Start planning for spring

Gardeners are always looking forward to the next season and although spring might seem a long way off, now is the time to start planting spring bulbs. Choose from small snowdrops, crocus to metre high crown Imperialis or spring colour daffodils or narcissus ranging from small miniatures such as Minnow to large trumpet daffodils such as old favourites, Fortune and King Alfred.

Depending on the variety these will flower from January to April. Plant some under your newly planted tree to provide bright colours and a welcome sight for spring. Narcissus and Daffodils are the easiest plants to grow, returning every year, whether in beds and borders naturalising among shrubs or in tubs and containers, giving beautiful flowers and many fragrances too. Wonderful tulips come later with planting out in October to November.

Look after your lawn

Once the dry weather comes to an end, lawns will quickly recover. With the damp of longer evenings, grass will quickly return to green and now is a good time to scarify. With a lawn rake remove any moss or ‘thatch’, which is an accumulation of dead grass and creeping stems of weeds.

If the soil is soft and damp, then spike the lawn making holes in the turf to help stop compaction and prevent bad drainage from the winters rain. Then apply autumn lawn feed. Repair broken lawn edges and bumps and hollow any bald patches. Sow some grass seed from late September to October as the warm and damp soil conditions will encourage germination in 7 to 10 days.

A gardener’s work is never done

General garden jobs include deadheading roses. Roses have enjoyed the dry sunny weather this year with flowers lasting longer and without the rain less prone to black spot and rust. In tubs and containers, as summer bedding comes to an end, replace with plants for winter and spring. Try a combination of evergreens, herbaceous perennials, evergreen grasses and winter bedding. Chrysanthemums, cyclamen, pansies, and violas make colourful additions.

Harvest your vegetable crop

September is the month for harvesting tomatoes, peppers, beans, courgettes, marrows, sweet corn, onions, shallots, and potatoes. With tomatoes, remove the leaves to allow the sun to ripen the fruit, giving better flavours than trying to ripen the fruit indoors. Sow perpetual spinach, rocket, corn, and overwintering lettuce which often grow more reliably in a green house.

Colour, light and charm of the late summer garden

Plant highlights this month include perennial grasses seedheads and plumes of foliage, in low light, planted with Heleniums, Rudbeckias, Echinaceas, Coreopsis all look spectacular, or with Asters that have daisy like flowers in pinks, purples and blues. Shrubs providing interest include Caryopteris, Hardy Fuchsias, Potentillas, Hibiscus syriacus, whilst Perovskias with sage scented leaves, silvery stems and tiny lavender balls of flowers has coped very well with this year’s summer heat. Japanese anemones come in many varieties, available in pinks and whites. Tall and elegant, the flowers all face the same way towards the light and grow well in any well-drained soil in sun or light shade. It can take a year to establish a good clump. Sedums or Hylotelephium as they are now known, commonly known as the ice plant as they are drought tolerant and the late summer flowers attract bees and butterflies. It does best in well-drained soil with flowers of deep pinks and whites and some varieties have purple foliage and sprays of pink flowers. Cyclamen hederifolium is an autumn flowering hardy cyclamen with dainty flowers in whites and pinks, which open before leaves appear. It self-seeds easily in well drained soil in light shade with the seed actually being spread by ants.

 Cyclamen hederifolium

Until next month from all the team at Van Hage, enjoy the colours, light and charm of the late summer garden. If you are lost for ideas the team is here to help.

With best wishes, from the Van Hage Team