October is the month where we start getting frosts and the days begin to shorten; with this comes the end of the growing season, with plants going dormant, it is usually a good time to plant new material or for moving existing plants.
There are a host of sweetly scented flowering shrubs that last from now until Spring and will go on flowering year after year. Plants such as mahonia which has holly type evergreen leaves with spikes of yellow flowers that have a lily of the valley scent from November to early spring. Witch Hazels are another great plant with their cinnamon scent (Hamamellis Mollis) and unusual flowers which are borne on the bare stems from December to February. It’s quite a large shrub and could be used as a specimen. Christmas Box is another thats’ aptly named (Saroccoa Humilis) as it flowers in December – January with a sweet honey type fragrance. Its’ a small shrub and will grow in sun or shade.
An old variety that has a great scent is Virurnum “Bodnatense Dawn” which has sweet perfumed flowers in November–December.
Half hardy and frost tender plants can be just as successful next Summer if they are overwintered. But how do you do it?
- Lift the plants and shake off the bulk of the soil
- Check for any signs of pests or disease, if so discard these plants in the bin rather than outside
- Cut the plant back by half, removing any late flowers and dead dying leaves.
- Keep in a cool dry place with reasonably good light
- Water very sparingly until new growth starts in the spring.
Plants such as geraniums, fuschias, pelargoniums, creeping Jenny etc. can be saved this way.
Dahlia tubers can be left in the ground if the ground is free draining and the tubers are covered over with a layer of moss peat or straw. This can be a great success in very mild areas.
You can also cut back by half the stems and lift from the soil using a garden fork, as this will do less damage. Remove the soil and discard any tubers that look sick or weak. Cut off the remainder of the top growth (this was only left to help you lift the tuber) and place it upside down in a wooden tray. It should be left upside down to dry out for approximately 3 weeks. After this they can be turned upright again and covered with chipped bark or dry peat. Leave in a frost free shed. Light levels are not important. They will be ready for planting out next spring.
Some of the other summer bedding plants can also be used for a little bit of colour for the winter. Plants that can be used are Busy Lizzy’s, Begonias, Petunias, Fushias and pelargoniums. Choose healthy plants that are not affected by disease or pests. Dig the plants out carefully and knock off the most of the old soil. Put plants into 6 in. pots of fresh compost and firm in. Water well
Cut the stems down to 2 ins. Keep the pots moist and position in a bright spot on a window sill. They should regrow and produce another flush of flowers for anything from a month or in the case of Begonias—all Winter.
Your lawn could still benefit from putting out some Autumn lawn feed. You will soon be near the end of cutting. Don’t cut too low and collect your clippings. You can sow your lawn seed as there is still good growth and the soil is not overly wet.
For winter colour you can sow winter pansies, polyanthus, chrysanthemums, ornamental cabbages, aubrietas and wallflowers.
Wallflowers will be only available in trays for the moment until the bareroot plants are ready. Bareroot trees and hedging will be available from roughly the end of October. Lastly, two very important points—firstly, now is the time to transplant and move trees and shrubs if necessary. If plants are getting overgrown amongst each other or just in the wrong place, move it now, generally anytime from October to March. Plan where you wish to move it to first. Dig well around the plant and undercut it. The golden rule is to take as much root and soil as possible without disturbing the plant too much. For large shrubs and conifers slide a piece of heavy duty polythene under the rootball and get somebody to lift it with you. This avoid knocking any soil or root off the rootball, keeping it intact. Replant at the same depth as before and water it in. Stake any large trees or conifers if the need arises. Some plants don’t transplant that well and one of the more fussy ones is the Lilac. So plant it where it is to remain.
The last point is Bulbs, Bulbs, Bulbs, Bulbs—people come looking for bulbs to plant in Spring when they see the daffodils and tulips and crocuses in flower—too late! Spring flowering bulbs are planted now, so get down to your garden centre now before the choice is gone. There is a huge variety of bulbs now and all sizes and colours, dwarf, tall, early, late, colourful and scented. Naturalising bulbs (mass planting bulbs) is great if you have large open areas. It gives an ever improving display every year with no work. Pick an area and scatter bulbs, like as if you are sowing seed, where they land you plant, use a spade or a bulb planter. The bulbs will multiply every year eventually, giving a mass of colour.
Congrats to all who had any hand in the development of the bank beside the Claregalway National School. The whole thing has turned out very well and shows what can be done with a bit of effort.
That’s if for now, happy gardening.
Bosco McDermott, Jnr.
Glynn’s Garden Centre, Lydican.