Gardeners look at Autumn in the different ways, the lazier of us because garden maintenance is greatly reduced now that the grass has stopped growing and the weeds are no longer germinating in their hundreds. The rest of us see Autumn as a busy and rewarding time in the garden, as the leaves change to their autumnal colours and fall, the perennials start to retreat underground and the emphasis shifts towards berries, colourful stems, variegated evergreens, conifers and heathers.
There are a huge range of berrying plants at this time of year and the bright berrying plants can often add colour to a very bleak day, bringing a lot of activity to your garden with birds of all types, vying to fed. You can derive many hours of pleasure watching the birds play and compete for the feeders in your garden. Some people put up bird table, which are designed now so the larger bird cannot feed off them; others hang up the various type of seed or nut feeders, which can be hung from the house or trees or stakes. You can feed the birds with loose peanuts, wild bird seed, bread, fat, etc. so get cracking!
The birds will also feed off your plants that have berried in the garden.
Trees that give the best show of berries are the Sorbus (Mountain Ash) family. The common mountain ash, Sorbus Aucuparia is covered with masses of red berries, Sorbus Sheerwater seedling is another with orangery red berries. The best of all is Sorbus Joseph Rock with its yellow berries and Sorbus Vilmoring with pinkish berries, both often left untouched by the birds because of their strange colour. Another family of tree that looks well is the Malus (crabapple) species. Malus Golden Hornet with its yellow fruit, Malus Evereste with its orange fruit and Malus gorgeous with its fantastic red fruit. As a wall covering shrub, the pyracanthas (firethorn) gives great colour. It’s a dense upright evergreen shrub. It has dark green leaves with clusters of small white flowers in summer followed by different coloured berries depending on the variety, red yellow or orange. Rosa rugosa (shrub Roses) give colour with their beautiful coloured hops. Holly’s of different varieties berry now. A very good variety is Ilex J.C. Van Tol. This does not need a partner as it is self-fertile. It has red berries against dark green foliage and berries very freely. It is great for making Holly wreaths as it is not very prickly. Other good berrying plants are Skimmias, particularly Skimmia Reevesiana, Arbutus unedo, Gaultheirea, Celastrus and the cotoneasters.
Plants with good colour this year are the Cornus (Dogwood) family. Cornus Alba Sibirca has brilliant bright red stems and cornus stobonifera flaviramea has bright yellow stems. A smaller variety, approx. 3 ft × 3 ft is Cornus Midwinter fire, with brilliant autumn colours and orangey yellow stems in the winter.
The profusion of colour we have in summer, we take for granted and we would be happy to have a fraction of it now, as the bare stems are revealed. While the glossy green leaves of modern shrubs like laurels, skimmias and fatsia all bring life to the garden of particular value now are the yellow leaved and variegated plants. They add a warm touch of sunshine to the garden during the dark months. Conifers of a bright colour can also do the same job. A nice idea is to plant everygreen gold splashed plants behind deciduous types so that only in winter will the variegated foliage show up. Conifers that can do this job are Thuja Orientalis Aurea-Nana, Chamecyparis pist. Sungold, Thuja Rheingold, Taxus Bacatta Fastigata Aurea, Chaemecyparis minima Aurea, etc.
Walls can also bealift with plants such as Hedera (Ivies) Helix, Goldheart, Hedera Buttercup, Hedera Canarisensis, Hedera Colchia P. varregata, to screen them off. Shrubs that can do the same job are Eleangus Pungens Maculata, Eleagnus Gilt Edge, Ilex Golden King, Ilex Silver Queen, Ilex Golden Milkboy, Ligustrum ovalifolium Aureum, Lonicera Nitioa Baggesons Gold, etc.
For those who are worried about collecting all the leaves that have fallen in the garden and the task of removing them, don’t worry.
While it is essential to remove leaves from lawns, paths and driveways, it is not necessary or even desirable to take them from other places. Areas planted with trees and shrubs and even areas with herbaceous plants of reasonable size, do not need to have leaf litter removed. In fact, it is detrimental to a garden woodland areas to remove the leaves. The litter layer returns nutrients to the soil and helps retain soil moisture in summer.
Small plants such as alpines and low growing herbaceous plants will be damaged by a covering of leaves but taller flowers and plants will not be harmed. A layer of leaf litter mulches the soil, helps to keep weeds down, retains summer moisture and feeds the plants. So before getting out the leaf rake think—is this necessary at all? For those who do, put them on a compost heap and break them down, it makew a great fertiliser for plants.
In the vegetable garden, dig over empty vegetable ground and cover with some type of organic material to to break down over the winter. Remove summer bedding plants now, plant primulas, winter pansys, winter heathers, wallflowers, bulbs of all kinds, tulips, daffodils, crocus, etc. for colour now. Roses can be pruned back by a third now to prevent wind damage. Now is also a good time to plant roses, as most garden centre will be getting a new stock of roses in now.
All the bareroot trees, hedging and conifers are arriving in stock now. Bareroot hedging varieties, e.g. Griselinia, Escallonia, Beech, Laurel, Pines, Alders, Sitkia Spruce, Hawthorn Quicks, etc. Bareroot trees of many different varieties and sizes and conifers of large sizes in Burlap netting many different varieties again.
Lastly, now is a dormant period for trees and shrubs, and plants may be moved from one spot to another. So if you have a plant that’s in the wrong place and needs to be moved, do it now. Dig well around the plant and try and get as much soil and root as possible Dig in some brown gold with it and heel in to its new position straight away.
That’s it for now, Happy gardening,
Bosco McDermott, Jnr.,
Glynn’s Garden Fruit & Veg. Centre,
Note: New telephone No. 091 799135.
The Nuacht Chláir team wishes Bosco every good wish in his new position as Manager of Glynn’s Garden Centre. We know it will be a huge success as Bosco’s expertise in this field is renowned.