“I wander’d lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils”.
If like Wordsworth you want to see daffodils this spring, don’t forget to plant them this Autumn! Now is the time for planting spring bulbs and there is such a huge range of bulbs available now for every choice. Crocuses are very popular for low planting in single colours or mixed bunches, in the sun, covered with about 2 inches of soil.
Daffodils are the perennial favourites, the earliest starting in February to the next variety into May. There are dwarf Narcissi types for very windy locations or for tubs, the best of these being the variety tête-à-tête. Snowdrops need no introduction, but plant in a rich free draining soil. Tulips are best left for planting till last, to help prevent slug damage. When the foliage comes out, protect from slugs with slug pellets or in an organic way by scattering ashes from the fire on the soil around them. Hyacinths are specially prepared bulbs for Christmas flowering. Plant early singly or in a group, of the same colour. Place them in a dark, cool place in moist garden compost and the buds will begin to appear after a couple of weeks. Bring them into the light to green them up and enjoy the flowers after that.
Many people plant bulbs in lawns or fields described as naturalizing bulbs. Place the bulbs (usually daffodils) in natural drifts on the grass and plant them 5-6 inches apart. Either lift a turf with a spade and plant several bulbs underneath or use a bulb planter to excavate a plug of soil, plant the bulbs and replace the plug.
Planting depths for bulbs is roughly three times its own size from tip to base, more or less does not really matter. We have a large selection of bulbs available to plant now, so get planting! Look out for new varieties Narcissus Rip van Winkle, obdam, and Tulip Peach Blossom.
The lawns at this time of year, especially after a dry summer may need spot of intensive care. Apply an autumn lawn feed now to see the lawn through the winter. Apply the Golden Vale Autumn lawn feed. Any weeds in the lawn could be spot treated with shell D50 or Verdone (liquid weedkiller), spot treating any weeds in the lawn. Rake off any old grass or leaves left on the lawn.
In the vegetable garden, maincrop onions that are starting to turn yellow at the tips should be lifted now. Insert a digging fork under the bulbs and lift them slightly to loosen the roots without breaking them. This will hasten ripening but don’t bend the tops over as this only invites disease. Autumn onion sets can be sown now, 3 inches apart in drills and feed again in March with nitrogen. Spring cabbage can be sown now, so get a drill ready.
Apple trees and other fruit trees are showing their harvest now. People ask how to keep the fruit. You can use trays with open layers and stack them in that or roll up undamaged fruit in a roll or newspaper and keep in a dark cool place. Another way is to put apples in a plastic bag and close the top. This builds up the carbon dioxide in the bag. Put two pinpricks in the bag to prevent excess carbon dioxide (they use carbon dioxide in cold stores0, store in a cool place and the fruit should last. Apples are the best keepers, fruit such as ears don’t store very well. Finally, all fruit trees should be fed with sulphate of potash now, for better fruiting next year. People ask about saving bedding plants at this time of year and yes some of the half hardy annuals may be saved. More often than not people leave it too late and the plants have been hit by frost. Busy Lizzy’s, Pelargoniums, Fuschias, Osteospernums, Geraniums, are all worth saving. Cut the tops back by half, pot them up, remove all old leaves and flowers and leave them in a cold frost free place. Otherwise you can bring them into a heated greenhouse, or a warm well lit room where they will carry on flowering.
Seeds can also be collected off plants at this time of year. Look for brown seed pods, if wet let them dry out on newspaper. Break open the pods and shake out the seeds. Avoid mixing chaff and seed. Place in a paper bag and label clearly for sowing next spring. This is the month that gives us a kaleidoscope of foliage colours to help brighten up otherwise dull autumn days in the garden. There are a wide range of plants that offer autumn colours from flame red to shades of yellow and scarlet. Probably the best known would be the Virginia Creeper, the best of these being Parthenocissus Tricuspidata Veitchii (Boston Ive), a hardy deciduous climber for all walls even north facing ones. Another climber with nice Autumnal colour is Vitis Coignetiae, the ornamental vine.
Shrubs that offer us these beautiful colours are Rhus Sumach (Stags Horn), probably the most popular. The leaves turn orange, red or purple in autumn and female plants also bear spikes of crimson fruits in late summer. It can be grown anywhere and should be pruned regularly to prevent it becoming leggy. A newer variety often planted now as a medium sized shrub is Cornus Midwinter Fire, a deciduous shrub with golden stems in the winter, after it has lost its autumnal foliage.
Euonymous Europaens, the common spindle can be seen inn many gardens and in the wild, turning pink or red in autumn and has attractive lobed fruits that split open to reveal their orange seeds. An unusual variety for the garden is Euonymous Alatus which has a square corky stem. Two of my favourites are for lime free peaty soils, Enkianthus (Pagoda Bush) and Acer Palmantum (Japenese Maple).
The Erkianthus has yellow and flaming red foliage colours. It is a large plant up to 6–8 feet high with cream flowers which have red veins and edges in May. It also likes a moist soil. The Acer Palmantum or Japenese Maple also prefer a lime free soil with protection from the morning sun and cold winds. The colour and shape of the foliage make it stand out from all other plants. The nicest variety is Acer Palmantum Dissectum Atropurpureum, a prostate habit with fine dissected leaves.
Trees provide us with nice autumnal foliage. Here are three different ones—Liquidambar Styracifolia, the sweet gum. It likes a moist soil, has a corky bark and the leaves turn red, purple and gold in colour. The next on is Fraxinus Taspidea, a golden Ash with Golden/Yellow branches and foliage that turns yellow in Spring and Autumn. Lastly Sorbus Joseph Rock, a mountain ash variety with large white flowers followed by yellow berries in the Autumn and Winter with a nice autumnal colour.
Finally, some people are losing their Summer bedding plants now, so the Winter bedding plants are coming into their own. Wallflowers, Sweet Williams, Polyanthus, Winter Pansys and Chrysanthemums are all available now to give colour through till next Spring.
That’s it for now.
Bosco McDermott Jnr.
Glynn’s Garden Centre, Lydican.