5 TOP AUTUMN TIPS FOR PEONIES

Nurseryman and peony specialist Alec White rounds up his 5 top autumn tips for peonies

Autumn tips for peonies

Winter is coming and there are lots of jobs to keep the gardener busy; raking leaves, collecting seed, dividing plants and generally tidying up. For those of us with peony plants in the garden, there is slightly less to do and more time to enjoy the pleasures of autumn… Read more

Garden Jobs for October

The Beginning of the New Gardening YearEchinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit', Large 3lt (17cm) Pot

The beginning of the gardening year? Yes – because it’s the ideal time to plant many types of colourful perennials and shrubs to enjoy next year. Hardy plants planted now will settle in over the winter and will start growing much sooner and faster in spring.

What to do if you haven’t much time

  • Apply a fine mulch (not bark) to soils to feed them and improve their structure. A 2-3” (5-8cm) layer added now and lightly forked into the top couple of inches will start to be incorporated into the soil by the worms. Around plants that you find have roots close to the surface, like hostas and some shrubs, just lay the mulch on top and don’t fork it.


Other jobs

Trees, Shrubs & Hedges

  • Plant container-grown climbers and shrubs
  • Move evergreen shrubs
  • Prune climbing roses to reduce damage from the strong winter winds.
  • Prepare ground for planting bare-root trees and shrubs
  • Trim conifers again if necessary
  • Plant hedges of evergreen and deciduous plants
  • Prune climbing roses
  • Take hardwood cuttings

 

Perennials

  • Cut back perennials
  • Plant new herbaceous perennials
  • Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials, adding planting compost or mulch
  • Finish planting all spring-flowering bulbs and lilies now
  • Lift dahlias, gladioli, cannas and other tender tubers and bulbs – before the frosts. Allow to dry out a little in a well ventilated, dry shed or garage and then store in a cool but frost free place that’s also well ventilated.

 

Containers

  • Continue planting containers with spring-bedding plants and bulbs
  • Don’t forget to buy perennials and shrubs for winter colour

 

Lawn

  • Rake out thatch, aerate and top-dress lawns
  • Make new lawns – with seed early in the month, or with turf all month

 

Vegetables and herbs

  • Dig in green manure crops
  • Finish lifting main crop potatoes
  • Continue lifting carrots and beetroot
  • Plant out spring cabbages, autumn onion sets and garlic
  • As soon as crops have been harvested, start winter digging of heavy clay soils, adding lots of well rotted organic matter such as mushroom compost or farmyard manure. The frosts will help to break down the clods of clay for you. Do NOT dig sandy soils at the moment as that will increase the rate at which nutrients are washed out of the soil over winter.

 

Fruit

  • Finish picking main crop apples
  • Clean up strawberry beds
  • Spray peaches and nectarines against peach leaf curl
  • Prune blackcurrants, blackberries and hybrid berries

 

Under cover

  • Buy bubble polythene
  • Sow sweet peas for next spring
  • Grow radishes, mustard, and cress for winter salad

Garden Jobs for August

What to do if you haven’t much time

  • Deadhead perennials, bedding and basket plants and roses to encourage more flowers. Apply high potash fertiliser (e.g. tomato food) to enable the growth of lots more flowers.

 

  • Mow regularly if the grass is growing. If the soil is very dry, raise the blades to leave the grass longer, which helps it to stay alive in a drought. Trim the egdes of the lawn – it makes such a difference!

 

Other jobs

Trees, Shrubs & Hedges

  • Continue to deadhead roses
  • Trim lavender lightly to remove dying flowers
  • Give a final trim to your hedges
  • Prune rambling roses
  • Propagate clematis by layering
  • Complete the summer pruning of wisteria
  • Continue to take semi-ripe cuttings
  • Layer rhododendrons and azaleas

 

Perennials

  • Cut back perennials that have collapsed
  • Start dividing perennials (if you’re around to water them well in the coming weeks)
  • Take cuttings of alpines, penstemons and other slightly tender plants for overwintering under protection
  • Plant daffodils, narcissi, colchicums and madonna lilies
  • Pot prepared hyacinths and other bulbs for flowers at Christmas
  • Divide congested clumps of snowdrops (if you know where they are!); take care to minimise damage to their roots if they have started developing already
  • Continue collecting ripening seeds
  • Mulch soil around cut down perennials to tidy, improve the soil and suppress annual weeds
  • Continue to propagate carnations and pinks
  • If peony leaves are looking starved, give them a little liquid feed to keep them going

 

Annuals and bedding

  • Continue to deadhead and feed annuals (tomato food)
  • Take cutting from pelargoniums, fuchsias and other tender perennials
  • Collect seeds from hardy annuals

 

Containers

  • Continue watering and feeding plants in containers

Lawns

  • Mow the lawn regularly
  • Apply a fertilizer with high potash content
  • Don’t water unless absolutely necessary
  • Prepare for sowing seed or laying turf next month

Vegetables and herbs

  • Sow green manure crops
  • Harvest onions
  • Harvest beans and freeze them
  • Sow Japanese onions, salad crops, spring cabbages, parsley
  • Continue earthing up celery
  • “Stop” outdoor tomatoes by pinching out the growing tips
  • Pot up other herbs such as chives
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings from shrubby herbs

Fruit

  • Harvest early apples and pears
  • Continue pruning summer-fruiting raspberries – chop already fruited canes down to the ground
  • Summer-prune trained fruit trees
  • Plant new strawberry plants

Under cover

  • Check greenhouse heaters
  • Damp down regularly in the morning (NOT in the evening)

Get flowers for twice as long with this simple trick

What is the “Chelsea Chop”, and why bother?

The “Chelsea Chop” is a QUICK and EASY technique you can copy from professional nurseries to make sure you get more summer and autumn flowers in your garden over a longer period.  It is quicker and easier than “deadheading” and costs nothing but a few minutes of your time.

How to do the Chelsea Chop

How does it work?

By cutting back some of your summer and autumn flowering “herbaceous perennials“ (cottage garden plants) in late spring, you can make them produce more flowers that will bloom later.

If you “chop” HALF of your flowering perennial plants and leave half alone, the flowering period could easily be doubled in length, and you will get more flowers in total.  If you only have one clump of a plant, cut down the front half, leaving the back half untouched. The back will flower first, and the front will flower a little later, and a little shorter in height. If you have several clumps you could cut down some but not others.

A variant of the method is to reduce ALL of certain types of plant in height by half or more, to make them flower more compactly. This works with the taller kinds of sedums and reduces the chance of them flopping. e.g. Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ (‘Autumn Joy’) and Sedum telephium varieties.  It will also work on taller phloxes, heleniums etc – they’ll flower later and lower, and need less (or no) staking.

 

How to do ‘The Chelsea Chop’

Cut back appropriate plants by one third to one half, cutting just above a strong-looking buds (or pair of buds).  Use sharp secateurs or scissors, shears, or a sharp thumbnail if you have one!

Although not a key part of the “Chelsea Chop” process, this is also a good time to give the plants a bit of TLC if you haven’t already:

  • Check for disease and damage done by slugs, snails and insects
  • Scatter some slow release fertiliser and lightly hoe it in
  • If the soil is dry, give it one good watering
  • Cover the soil surface with composted bark or homemade compost (not peat which goes dusty, has little nutrient value and is not environmentally friendly). This will keep in moisture and improve soil.

When?

Late May, around the time of Chelsea Flower Show, hence “Chelsea Chop”. But if you’re too busy watching Chelsea on TV, a week before or after is fine too.

Later care

Do you know how much difference “deadheading” (cutting off old flowers) makes? Some plants can flower for three months instead of one, giving you three times the value!  Give it a try – take out some secateurs with your drink on a nice summer evening.  Last year my helenium sunflowers were still colourful at Christmas!

What plants respond best to the Chelsea Chop (and to deadheading)?

Summer and autumn flowering perennials like Astrantia, Campanula (Bell flower), catmint (Nepeta), Coreopsis, Day Lilies, daisy type flowers like Echinacea, Helenium, Rudbeckia and Shasta daisies, Gaillardia, Geranium, Lychnis, Monarda (bergamot), Border Phlox.

If in doubt, try it on part of a plant and see what happens!

It doesn’t work on shrubs, although some later flowering shrubs (those that flower from July onwards) can be cut back in spring and may flower later than usual as a result.Phlox Cosmopolitan

Helenium 'Double Trouble', Large 3lt (17cm) Pot

 

Garden Diary – Jobs To Do In Late Winter

Garden Diary – Jobs To Do In Late Winter

Isn’t it tempting at this time of year to stay indoors and dream of spring? To read your gardening magazines and plan the changes you want to make this year? That’s a very reasonable and enjoyable thing to do, but there’s also work to do outside. Here’s a reminder of some jobs that, if done now, will improve your garden no end once growth starts again.

Improving your soil through mulching

Whether you have the local heavy, sticky clay or the easier light sand, adding rotted down plant material of some sort will improve your soil and make your plants grow and flower better. It may seem contradictory, but clay soil will become better drained, and light, dry soils will retain water better. Both soil types will be able to provide a better range of nutrients (food) for your plants.

The easiest way to get this improvement is to add a mulch of material to the surface of the soil and let the worms take it down into the soil for you. If, like many people, you don’t make much of your own garden compost, then you can buy composted, shredded bark green waste, or well rotted farmyard manure. Spread compost 2” (5cm) deep between the plants, or manure 1” deep. Make sure it doesn’t pile up against plant stems. Spiking the surface of the soil with a fork to a depth of a few inches will help the worms to mix the material into the soil.

Ideally this should be done every year, but every other year will be much better than nothing. This will make more difference in your garden than almost any other winter gardening job!

Clean your empty pots

Herb pots

It’s worth washing and even disinfecting your empty pots before you use them again in spring. Soak in warm water with a little washing up liquid and some mild disinfectant if you have some (not bleach). Then scrub them clean. You might like to look on Pinterest or elsewhere online for fun ideas for labelling your pots.

Plant ties

Check that stakes and plant ties are still doing their job after the winter storms, replacing those that have broken or are worn.  Make sure they’re not rubbing through the bark, which can lead to infection and death or branches or even whole plants.

Ponds

Clear out any leaves that have fallen into the pond.  If ice forms and you have fish, make a breathing hole by pouring a little boiling water onto the ice.  Hitting the ice can kill the fish.

Alpines

If you have any true alpine plants (that is, the kind that don’t like waterlogged crowns or roots), protect them from water by covering them with a well ventilated cloche or by propping a sheet of Perspex or polycarbonate over them.  Winters seem to be getting wetter, so if you don’t want to have to do this every year, you may need to replace them in spring with plants more suited to the conditions.

Hedges

If the weather isn’t freezing, it’s a good time to prune evergreens such as laurel, Euonymus and Viburnum, while they’re dormant.

Dahlias

If you store dahlia tubers in a frost-free place over the winter, check them on a dry day to see if there’s any mould. If there is, remove badly affected parts with a sharp knife and, if you have any, dust with fungicide before replacing.

Christmas pot plants

If at Christmas you had some flowering plants like cyclamen, violets or azaleas, they can continue flowering for months if regularly deadheaded and fed.  Just pick or cut off the dead flowers, as low down their stems as you can reach.  A plant’s job is to reproduce itself by producing seed – by removing dead flowers before it can do this, you fool the plant into producing more flowers!  Water in some tomato food to give them a burst of energy.

 

 

Copyright Alexia Ballance 2016

Our Plant of the Month

Dicentra spectabilis

Our plant of the month is a real favourite and is looking great on our nursery at the moment, selling well at RHS Cardiff Flower Show a few weeks ago we thought we would feature it here. Dicentra spectabilis (Lamprocapnos spectabilis AGM) is also commonly known as ‘Bleeding-heart’ and flowers throughout the Spring. The flowers are heart-shaped in pink and white, hanging on arching stems. It truly is a lovely flower. The foliage is attractive being light green and divided. It is a herbaceous clump-forming perennial, returning every year and loves a shady position in the garden and will tolerate pretty much any soil conditions once established. It is pretty resistant to pests and diseases and requires little pruning or staking. It’s really easy! The plant will grow to about 60cm high and spread to about 60cm wide. Dicentra is a plant that has been around for a while (it came to the UK in the mid 1800’s) and it is an old favourite. Another common name is ‘Lady-in-the-bath’ which seems daft until you take a flower and turn it upside down – fascinating! The plant is highly regarded and has been awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit. We love it and we think you will love it too!

Look out for Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ which has white pendant shaped flowers, Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’ which has red and white heart-shaped flowers and Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ which has gorgeous golden leaves and pink/white heart-shaped flowers that will really brighten up your garden.

Buy this plant NOW!