September was traditionally the month to prepare the garden for the first frosts – but not anymore! The sun may be lowering in the sky but there is still a blaze of colour to enjoy, especially with plants that originate from near the equator. These include Dahlias, bright yellow Rudbeckia, Echinacea daisy-shaped orange, yellow and red flowers, plus the reds and blues of Salvia. Surround these with ornamental grasses for contrast and texture and spires of seed heads, some with variegated foliage, provide stunning displays too.

Some other plant highlights include bright orange Tithonia, Cosmos and Zinnias – these are half hardy annuals. Keep dead heading and feeding and these will flower well into October. Tithonias are particularly striking and stand out in the late afternoon sun like mini sunflowers.

September highlights also include Sediums so loved by butterflies, Asters, Kniphophias and Actaea with its fluffy pinkish/white flowers from Sept to Oct. Look out for the variety with dark leaves – really beautiful!

Autumn bedding
As summer bedding plants come to an end, start removing them and add fresh compost to the soil and replant with Forget Me Nots, Polyanthus, Pansies and Violas. In planted containers use Hebes, autumn flowering Chrysanthemums and evergreen grasses. The different coloured foliage and seed heads provide a striking contrast with the leaf textures and colours of Heuchoras, with its wonderful lime green, marmalade and purple hues. In the gaps between, plant with Violas and dwarf Spring bulbs.

Try adding bedding Cyclamen into your containers, these do better when sheltered from wind, rain and frost and flower right through to the end of December. The flowers range from pink, cerise, purple, white and bi-coloured and some even have a sweet-smelling scent – gorgeous!

Spring Bulbs
This year’s weather has been very challenging to bulb growers as the wet weather devastated harvests by 3 to 4 weeks, however we have plenty in stock to choose from!

Now is the time to start planning and organising next year’s Spring bulb displays – they give so much colour and hope after the Winter gloom. Snowdrops, Crocus and Muscari daffodils can be planted now, Tulips can be planted October to November. When planting bulbs bury them deep enough to survive – a good rule of thumb is to plant them three times their length. The main reasons that bulbs don’t flower is that they have been planted too shallow or too close together. When planting in borders add a small amount of bone meal to the soil and if your garden is on heavy clay add some potting grit into the bottom of the hole as this improves drainage and prevents the bulb from rotting before producing roots.

Bulbs look more natural when grown in random clumps rather than straight lines and bulbs make brilliant Spring displays when grown in pots too. One technique known as ‘Lasagne Planting’ is where bulbs are planted in layers: large ones at the base, with smaller bulbs on the top. It is advisable to keep to one variety of plant as too much variation can lose impact and too much foliage can hide the flowers as they open. Select bulbs that flower over different time periods too so that the flowers just keep coming!

Some of the new bulb introductions that make stunning displays are Tulip Chansonette, a vibrant two-tone flower of burgundy and cream, or Tulip White Triumphator which is a classic tulip shape, tall and elegant. Tulip ‘Outbreak’ is multi-headed with two-tone orange/yellow and red hues.
Daffodils new to this year are ‘Angels Whisper’, fragrant and multi headed. With so many colours and types of bulbs available it is sometimes difficult to make your selection, however extra-large value packs with different colour combinations are perfect for creating wonderful spring displays.

Autumn Planting
With autumn/winter new plants of interest arrive in our Outdoor Plant Area. These include evergreens and trees and planting these in your garden is an effective way to offset your carbon footprint and help climate change. Trees come in all shapes and sizes and are therefore suitable for any garden, large or small. Whether it’s an Apple tree, ornamental Cherry with it’s spring flowers and autumn coloured foliage or Crab Apples with their autumn fruit so loved by wildlife in the cold winter months. The fruit is also good for jams and jellies. Select the right tree and it could be growing for the next 60 – 70 years.

When growing long-lived plants such as trees, shrubs and perennials it means less soil cultivation. By just adding a layer of garden compost you will benefit the plant without disturbing the fragile ecosystem of the soil. Conifers are a wide ranging group of plants that include Pine, Fir, Cupressus, Spruce, Cryptonarion, Juniper and Yew. There are even deciduous conifers such as Lavrix the Larch or Ginko Bilotha the Maiden Hair tree. Conifers have a wide range of garden uses adding shape and colour to your garden with many different textures for year-round interest. There are dwarf varieties suitable for smaller gardens but do check the spread and eventual height. These are easy to grow and need an open position because if planted in shade or against a wall this can cause the foliage to turn brown.

When planting it is a good idea to plan a focal point. Yew can be used to create topiary shapes and even used to create exotic garden themes along side palms. Yew is also good in pots or containers providing the compost doesn’t dry out and to add winter colour use white flowering heather to cascade over the edges of the containers.

This year’s lawns have maintained a green and healthy look with the warmth and summer rain but now is the time to start autumn lawn maintenance. Start by raking out moss, dead grass, and any creeping stems before mowing the lawn.
Spike the lawn 4 to 6 inches deep (usually done every 3 years) by using a garden fork – this helps to reduce compaction and aids drainage. Once this is done apply Autumn Lawn Feed which is low in Nitrogen and high in potash. By feeding the roots rather than the foliage this will help the lawn cope with the coming harsh winter weather. Add a little topsoil mixed with horticultural grit and with a stiff brush sweep this mix into the holes you have made. Other lawn jobs include repairing broken lawn edges, seeding bald patches, and dealing with bumps and hollows. After all this work, lawns can look a bit untidy, but it will soon recover.

Vegetables and Herbs
September is the time to harvest courgettes, marrows, French and runner beans. Onions and shallots can now be stored and sweetcorn tastes so much better when freshly picked – so sweet and tender straight off the cob! You can still sow spinach, salad leaves, radish, spring onions and onion sets.

Enjoy the late summer garden and look forward to welcoming next year’s spring bulbs – gardeners are always planning for the future garden. The changing season gives us hope, there’s still so much to enjoy and look forward to in your garden.

The Van Hage Team