With the warm weather on the wane, it's time to think about preparing our garden borders for next year, but with his flower beds still looking good, Monty Don faces some tough decisions about what to ditch for his spring display. He also tackles that perennial hazard of slippery paths and shows us how best to deal with the problem.
Carol Klein visits a National Collection of michaelmas daisies near Malvern to find out what makes it so special. And with Halloween just round the corner, we visit a giant veg grower who has a showstopper of a pumpkin big enough to scare any trick or treaters!
Wallflowers are biennials which means they need to be sown one year to flower the next. If you didn’t get round to sowing any yourself over the summer, there’s still time to buy them as bare-rooted plants. They’re in garden centres now and typically come in bundles of 10. Mixed colours like ‘Persian Carpet’ are often the most popular, but if you’re going for a specific colour theme, look out for single-coloured varieties. ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Fire King’ are good ones to go for, as is ‘Primrose Bedder’ – the pale yellow wallflower Monty planted on camera. He grew it in the Lime Walk last year with the tulips ‘Nicholas Heyek’ and ‘White Triumphator,’ and it looked absolutely fabulous.
As Monty said, it’s best to plant your wallflowers as soon as you get them home. They don’t like to be kept hanging around and it’s not a good idea to stand them in water. If the plants have started to wilt or have turned yellow, go to a different garden centre or ask when the next batch is due in.
National Collections take a huge amount of time and dedication to look after and are often run by very knowledgeable people who are passionate about a certain genus of plants. They act as a comprehensive, living library and serve as a useful reference point for gardeners. To make a comparison, it’s bit like an art collector collecting every single painting by a certain artist.
To gain National Collection status, the collection must be as comprehensive as possible, well labelled, in good health and be accessible to the public. The collection of Michaelmas daisies Carol went to see is a very good example. Unfortunately, this particular garden is closed now, but if you fancy a visit next summer, here are the details.
The Picton Garden
The Picton Garden (www.nccpg.com)
Michaelmas daisies are perhaps the best-known members of the Aster family. Their various shades of purple and mauve bring a much needed splash of colour to our borders when most other plants are in decline. There are two main types. The most popular group belong to Aster novi-belgii, the New York asters. These are tough plants that will put on a good display whatever the weather throws at them. They make good cut flowers too. But their big downfall is powdery mildew which can hamper their performance in hot, dry weather, particularly on a sandy soil. New England asters, on the other hand, are a lot less prone to this fungal disease. They’re derived from Aster novae-angliae and are a better bet for exposed gardens as they tend to have stiffer stems.
Of course, Paul Picton loves asters of every kind and when we asked him which were his absolute favourites, he came up with the following list:
- Aster ageratoides 'Starshine'
- Aster amellus 'Forncett Flourish'
- Aster divaricatus 'Eastern Star'
- Aster ericoides 'Snow Flurry'
- Aster novae-angliae 'Barr's Pink'
- Aster novae-angliae 'St. Michael's'
- Aster novi-belgii 'Gurney Slade'
- Aster novi-belgii 'St. Egwin'
- Aster 'Prairie Purple'
- Aster pyrenaeus 'Lutetia'
- Aster turbinellus
More on New York asters (www.hardy-plant.org.uk)
Jobs for the weekend: Apply grease bands
Late October is the perfect time to apply grease bands to fruit trees. You can do this by tying a ready-prepared sticky paper to the trunk or by painting a specially-prepared grease directly to the bark. In doing so, you’ll stop the wingless females of certain moths from climbing up the tree and, in doing so, halt the damage caused by leaf-munching caterpillars in the spring.
More about grease bands (apps.rhs.org.uk)
Jobs for the weekend: Harvest chillies
Chillies are delicious when they are eaten fresh. But if you happen to have a surplus, it’s worth picking them as soon as they’re ripe and drying them off for storage. Either lay them out on a sunny windowsill or string them up. Once dry, they can then be stored in a sealed container where they will keep for years.
More on growing chillies (apps.rhs.org.uk)
Jobs for the weekend : Plant crown imperials
Crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis) flower in April and are one of the most exotic flowers of spring. Red, yellow and orange varieties are available and you won’t need very many to make a dramatic impact. The bulbs are huge and have a hole like a cored apple running through the middle. Dig a really deep hole (30cm isn’t too deep) and add plenty of grit to the bottom. Plant each bulb on its side and then backfill with soil. They can take a while to settle down and hate being disturbed, so it’s worth marking the spot with a cane or stick.
More on crown imperials (apps.rhs.org.uk)
|Series Editor||Liz Rumbold|