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Moe's Autumn Newsletter

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope” Lady Bird Johnson

As summer continues through the month of August we won’t need to be reminded that autumn is just around the corner. In the kitchen garden I’d harvested most fruit and vegetables by late August, prepared some for freezing and made all manner of pickles, tarts and soups whilst the crop was as fresh as possible. Now as September begins, trying to keep the show going with the occasional feed and tidy up is the order of the day in the flower garden. Keeping the flowers blooming prolongs the pretence that summer is still with us and dead heading is an important task now if you want flowers for as long as possible. This is particularly true of the dahlias that will continue to give us colourful blooms until the first frosts if we deadhead them. Alstromerias will last until then if the flower stems are pulled up when they are finished. Geraniums will keep on flowering as long as they are cut back and don’t start to set seed. In my garden, the Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ was cut back after flowering earlier in the summer and should have been giving another flush of flowers at this time of the year. I use the word ‘should’ because Tom, (the trainee I have working with me this year) cut back the foliage in error so no new flowers for me. No worries - mistakes happen and learning from them improves our gardening skills!


If your borders are starting to look a little tired, it may be time to start thinking about including some late summer/early autumn flowering plants to it to prolong the colour. The late flowering hylotelephiums, heleniums, helianthus, rudbeckias, phlox and asters are good choices as are the plants in the solidago genus. Most of us will have seen the bright yellow Goldenrod,   Solidago ‘Goldenmosa’ but may not have come across Solidago ‘Little Lemon’ which is much brighter. Solidago ‘Golden Wings’ is tall at 2m with a spread of half that so it really makes a statement in the border. Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ is a sparkler of a plant as its name suggests and is late flowering. Another late flowering beauty is Leucanthamella seratina. It is one of the last leucanthemums to flower in the garden. It is a tall plant and its large delicately petalled flowers turn to face the sun. It pairs nicely with late flowering tall grasses such as Molinia ‘Skyracer’ or Miscanthus ‘Silberfeder’. Crocosmias are good late flowering perennials to have in the border. Their strappy leaves contrast well with most other garden stalwarts. Everyone is familiar with the bright red (and tall) C. ‘Lucifer’ AGM but there are others that will give a good splash of colour. C. ‘Hellfire’ AGM is becoming extremely popular and rightly so because it is vigorous but not invasive, very floriferous and a good bright red. The orange ‘Emily McKenzie’ has deep red markings on its flowers. C. ‘Carmen Brilliant, C. ‘Castle Ward late’ and C. ‘Cornish Copper are other good varieties. You will need space (and probably tall stakes as well) for C. ‘Zeal Giant’. It is the most striking of them all, shooting up to 1.8m with a spread of 90cm. Yellow varieties are not to be forgotten as they add good, strong colour to the front of the border. The late flowering C. ‘Citron Spray’ produces masses of lemon yellow flowers on tall stems (1.2m) not unlike like Freesias . C. ‘Star of the East’ with its huge 4ins golden yellow flowers held up on tall stems makes a bold statement. C. ‘George Davison’ AGM is a good ‘doer’ as is the dark stemmed Crocosmia crocosmiflora ‘Columbus’, but C. ‘Paul’s Best Yellow’ AGM is outstanding for its’ large egg yolk yellow flowers. Choose from a good range of AGMs in this genus and plant the corms in early spring, 5cm deep and 12cm apart in humus rich soil with not too much sun on them. However, too much shade will result in poor flowering. Plants in pots can be planted at any time. Divide them every three years to maintain their vigour. Simply dig them up and remove all but the last two or three corns that will have formed a line underground if they have not been divided for a few years. Don’t put the spent corms in the compost bin as the heat generated won’t be enough to destroy them. If your garden is particularly cold, cover the plants with a protective mulch in late autumn. Cut the plants down and cover with garden compost or other organic matter.


Congested Crocosmia corms

Solidago ‘Goldenmosa’


Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

Crocosmia ‘Paul’s Best Yellow’


Kniphofia, the red-hot pokers, light up the autumn garden with their candle - like flowers. Most will bloom from July to September. If you have the space, one of the best is the tall and stately Kniphofia ‘Rooperi’ AGM but there are others. K. ‘Toffee Nosed’ is a burnt yellow orange colour, K. ‘Tawny King is creamy yellow atop bronze coloured stems and K. ‘Timothy’ AGM is a lovely salmon red. All hail from South Africa and need full sun and free draining soil to do well. They will not tolerate wet conditions in winter so as a precaution, leave the foliage on the plants to keep them dry and protect new growth and add a thick mulch. In spring remove all last year’s foliage to tidy the plants. All go well with grasses, achilleas, echinops and erygiums.

Kniphofia ‘Rooperi’ with Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’     

Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’

Flowers (annuals) in pots will have used up most of the plant food that was incorporated into their compost at the beginning of the season and will need additional feeding with water soluble food to keep the show going. You can use a proprietary brand or make your own organic liquid feed. Comfrey or perennial weed roots and foliage can be put into a butt full of water. When they have rotted, remove the resulting ‘sludge’ and you are left with a very good organic liquid feed. Water it down (ten parts water, one part feed) and water it into spent compost.

Of course we could all do with some inspiration from time to time and Sarah Hopps is one of the speakers that will provide it in her presentation ‘Evergreens, stems and seed heads’ at the society’s meeting on September 19th. There will be an opportunity to see what Ben Preston, (the head gardener at York Gate in Leeds) uses in the borders, when he comes to speak to us on October 17th. However, in common with all other wonderful gardens, it isn’t just the herbaceous borders that has made this fantastic (small by national standards) garden world renowned. Find out what makes York Gate one of the UKs best small gardens by coming along. By the time our November meeting comes around on the 21st we won’t be thinking about flowers in our herbaceous borders but what we might do to brighten up our homes in the coming winter. Diane Harrison will be with us to show us what we might use in our winter hanging baskets. I have no doubt that she will be demonstrating how to plant up one or two so we can glean some ideas and expert tips on how to produce a beautiful display for winter time. Before that though, now is the time to start thinking about doing two things: The first, is listing those entries we intend to make at our Flower Show on September 9th! Send the list, together with entry fee to Barbara Joyce (address in the schedule) I live in South Manchester, and because of this, much of my vegetable and fruit crop reaches its’ peak well ahead of that grown in Chorley! As I mentioned earlier, it was processed before the end of August so I won’t have anything to enter in those categories. However there are other gems I intend to show! Those of you who live in Chorley will have crops that are at a premium best in September so it is to be hoped that as many of you as possible will take part and enter. If you haven’t shown anything at our Flower Show before why not give it a go!!

The second thing we need to do is purchase bulbs to plant in autumn to flower next spring and summer. There is plenty on offer in the garden centres and catalogues. I am sorry and sad to say that one of my favourite mail order companies, Avon Bulbs may cease trading next year. There will only be one more catalogue coming through my letter box if they cannot find a buyer for the company. This is such a loss as their reputation for top quality bulbs and plants is well known. 30 Gold medals at the Chelsea flower show is an incredible achievement from a company that prides itself on good customer service and top quality bulbs and plants.Those bulbs that will flower next summer need to be planted as soon as possible in September. These include the alliums. Spring flowering bulbs can be planted in October and November. We all have our favourites but it is worth mentioning some of the scented varieties that would be lovely either planted in pots on the terrace, near the house or in a cool porch. Some can be brought indoors to give you a home full of fragrance. So much better than air freshener out of a can!!

Narcissus bulbicodium romieuxii ‘Julia Jane’         

Narcissus papyaceus  ‘Ziva’       

The soft yellow Narcissus bulbicodium romieuxii ‘Julia Jane’ is a named form. They are petite but what they lack in stature they make for in exceptional fragrance. They grow better if protected from too much wind and rain, but I think they look lovely in a pot. The white flowered and multi headed ‘paper white’ narcissus Narcissus papyaceus, will give huge room filling fragrance. If you want them for Christmas they will normally take eight to ten weeks from potting to blooming. Grow them in cool conditions in good light without freezing to ensure they don’t get too tall and bring them into the house for a final flourish. Other fragrant narcissus to plant in the garden include the lovely multi stemmed ‘Thalia’ and ‘Cheerfulness’. The latter having a beautiful heady scent. Everyone knows Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) has a lovely scent. There are quite a few varieties from which to choose. Anecdotal communication in the gardening world seems to suggest that will grow almost anywhere (in May) but whichever one you purchase be prepared to wait a while for them to establish. This necessitates thoughtful consideration as to where to plant them because after all the waiting one doesn’t want to suddenly decide they need to be moved to make way for other, more exuberant growers! If you want to grow them, now is the time to plant them in humus rich soil and part shade. Hyacinthus is known to us all as having a fabulous fragrance. All can be potted up for use in the house when they will flower in March. Notably H. ‘Blue Jacket’ AGM is very compact. The grape hyacinth Muscari, as the name implies, have a wonderful fragrance. The variety Muscari ’Baby’s Breath’ (Jenny Robinson) has an exceptional scent. Did you know there are tulips with fragrance? The orange tulip Tulipa ‘Brown Sugar ‘  and the soft tangerine Tulipa ‘Ballerina’ AGM have lovely scents as does the orange and purple Tulipa ’Princes Irene’ AGM I will be working out some new planting combinations this autumn and bulbs will be used as a component in one of them. Because they take up no / very little space at ground level they can add an extra layer of interest (and colour) to a planting. If things work out I’ll take photographs!

As well as planting the bulbs we mustn’t forget all the other essential tasks of autumn:

  • Cut back stems of blackberries that have fruited to make way for new growth

  • Pick autumn fruiting raspberries

  • Clean ponds

  • Clear herbaceous borders and feed the soil with compost and manure

  • Order plants - Plant shrubs and herbaceous perennials

  • Finish planting and cutting hedges

  • Clear away fallen leaves and make leaf mould

  • Clear away and compost all annuals that are past their best. Clean pots and store them.

  • Clean greenhouses and put succulents and other tender specimens into them to dry off before winter


I could go on! We all know autumn is the time of harvest and preparation for cooler times to come, although I have to say that September has been a rather pleasant and warm month for the last few years so, hopefully we might still be able to pretend for a little while longer that summer is still with us!

Enjoy your gardens!


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