October Garden Diary

Photos by Clare

I know so many people who say that autumn is their favourite season, and try as I might, I just can't understand it. Yes I do appreciate the autumn colours and the mellow fruitfulness of it all, but I embrace spring with open arms and I hate to admit it, but even by the end of the summer, I am already looking forward to that time of green shoots and renewal. But here we are in full autumn mode, and I am determined to really look at everything this year, to get out there and connect with the landscape. I make no bones about the fact that my garden has been neglected for many weeks. I worked hard to keep it going before the open day in September, and since then I have let it slide into a glorious mess, not helped by the fact that I take pity on my chickens at this time of year and let them have the run of the garden. I console myself with the fact that it is almost designed as such, to embrace the natural tangles and intertwinings of nature. So when plants start fading, I leave them to age gracefully, re-attuning my eye to see the beauty in decay rather than tidying it all away.

The dahlias, like last year, have been a triumph, and I was still picking them on November 5. Last year I dug them up and replanted them in late spring. This year, I am going to try and leave them in. I may end up digging up a few particularly precious ones, but the rest I will leave to overwinter in the ground, giving them a thick covering of compost. In the back border, the late-flowering Aster turbinellus has been a joy, with long wiry stems and mauve daisy flowers. The earlier flowering Aster umbellatus has also done well - much taller and sometimes a casualty of high winds. The grasses come into their own now too, with Stipa lessingiana in the front garden (seeding absolutely everywhere) and Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', Stipa gigantea and Molinia 'Transparent' in the back garden. 

Dahlia Rip City

Rip City

Dahlia Preferenec


Sugar Diamond

This weekend I need to get out there and plant my tulips. I planted thousands in the borders last year, so I'm having a rest this year and just putting them in pots. I'll tidy up a little by chopping anything back that has completely collapsed, but I try and leave most perennials and grasses intact all winter for the seedheads, not cutting it back until February or March. One thing I will do is give the Teucrium fruitcans a trim as it is looking a bit shaggy - and I'll also clip my box plants, which I avoided clipping in the summer because of blight and box caterpillar. To keep me going until spring I have a few seedlings already underway in the greenhouse - ammi, scabious and sweet peas - so on the darkest days I can go in and remind myself that spring is just round the corner.