October: rich and exhilarating
October is such a wonderful month to be outside and to enjoy our gardens. Whilst September seemingly always provides a final taste of summer warmth, October most definitely brings us the full transition into autumn. Whether it is gathering the fruits of the harvest, or simply appreciating the gloriously colourful displays of autumn leaves, October is a rich and exhilarating month, full of change and rewards.
This month's star plants
Perhaps it is inevitable that our thoughts turn to autumn colour when thinking about our star plants this month. Many of our favourite deciduous trees are going to provide dazzling displays, with ornamental cherries (e.g. Prunus serrula), silver birch (Betula ‘Jacquemontii’) and orchard trees all contributing superbly. Every garden should have a tree if at all possible, and many of our favourites are suitable for small and medium sized gardens. For larger spaces, however, nothing can match Liquidamber styraciflua (Sweet gum) for a majestically breath-taking riot of seasonal colour.
A number of shrubs are also offering us much to enjoy this month. Japanese maples (Acers) provide superb autumn foliage colour, as do Hamamellis (witch hazel), Cotinus (smoke bush) and Mahonia. October interest is also provided from fruit and berries. Pyracantha is a much-maligned plant because of its plentiful thorns, but it boasts an unrivalled profusion of autumn berries in various shades of red, orange or yellow depending on the variety you chose to grow. Similarly, many Cotoneasters are laden with berries at this time of year, and some hollies will also be starting to show their colours this month.
My favourite plant for autumn colour, however, is a climber- Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston Ivy). Quick-growing and self-supporting, Parthenocissus provides excellent coverage in spring and summer, but is simple magical in autumn. From late summer onwards, the large glossy mid-green leaves slowly change colour to produce a climax of fabulously-rich scarlet magnificence. We have one growing on the front of Tythorne Garden Design’s HQ and I simply love it.
This month's garden jobs
Our soil still retains some warmth and this combined with autumnal rain provides perfect growing conditions for some of our least favourite weeds. It really is worth trying to find some time to deal with them over the next few weeks and, as ever, the trick is to try to remove them before they have a chance to flower and set seed. Every viable seed cast over the coming weeks could turn into a full-grown weed next spring, so a few minutes weeding now is definitely a good investment of time.
A general tidy-up of beds and borders is also a good idea, but do try to leave a few of the more interesting seed heads to enjoy over the coming months. Too many people miss out on the joys of a thick frost on the decaying remains of Verbena bonariensis, fennel or Angelica simply because they clear everything too early. It really does add an extra dimension of interest on a cold winters day and a host of birds and insects will also thank you for it.
It is important, however, that ponds are cleared of any general debris, and that greenhouses are given a good autumn tidy to reduce the risk of over-wintering pests and diseases.
October generally also provides a final opportunity to attend to any lawn issues. It may be a little too late to sow large areas of grass seed, but we can lay turf before the frosts begin and the soil gets too cold. It’s also well worth keeping on top of the falling leaves, as deep accumulations can quickly starve lawns of light and cause extensive damage.
Finally, if we grow our own fruit and vegetables, we will probably be busy this month gathering in our crops. Late season carrots and potatoes should still be good, and let’s not forget our Halloween pumpkins. Any last tomatoes can also be picked and enjoyed either as a last taste of summer, or turned into wonderful pickles and chutneys for later in the year.
Happy gardening this October!
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.