September: all change please...
Well, here we are. September marks the start of autumn, and a definite shift of emphasis in the garden. The showy, multi-coloured floral displays we’ve enjoyed from so many of our favourite plants during the summer are drawing to an end, and are steadily being replaced by a more muted and mellow picture.
Autumn is the season of yellows, golds, browns, oranges and reds. Glorious in its own right, the colour change is definitely a sign that we are in the final third of the year. The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are slowly dropping (although there always seems to be a few days of heat in September), and thoughts are beginning to turn to Halloween, bonfire night and maybe even Christmas.
But the move from summer to autumn certainly doesn’t mean that our gardens are finished for the year. We have lots and lots of things to see and do in the garden this month, and I’d encourage everyone to try to take a few moments to enjoy everything the September garden has to offer.
This month's star plants
Perhaps inevitably, our fruiting plants are, in particular, of great interest over the coming weeks, with apples, plums, pears, autumn raspberries and damsons all providing their wonderful bounty. Crab apples are also beginning to come into fruit nicely, with Malus ‘John Downie’ (pictured above) being my favourite variety. Although too tart to eat in their raw state, crab apples are great for crab apple jelly (lovely on toast or with cooked meats), or for helping to set other jams because of their high levels of pectin. I’ve also heard of people making crab apple gin or vodka by steeping the fruit with sugar and alcohol in the same way as sloe gin is produced. Surely this is worth a try this autumn if you have a crab apple tree in your garden? A special home-made treat for Christmas perhaps?
Speaking of Christmas, maybe it’s because the fruit is so sour, but the birds seem to leave crab apples alone and, as a result they can often remain on the tree well into the winter. They always remind me of little Christmas baubles, and make me smile every time I see them.
Elsewhere, we’ve got the endlessly cheerful yellow daisy-like flowers of Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’, the beautifully graceful flowers and stems of Verbena bonariensis, and perhaps the final bursts of delicious fragrance from our sweet peas.
Ornamental grasses really come in to their own in early autumn, providing a wonderful sense of movement as they catch the breeze. Many come into ‘flower’ this month as well- look out, in particular, for Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Sibererspinne’, Stipa tenuissima and Stipa gigantea. Wonderful.
This month's garden jobs
September often brings sunshine and showers, and with the soil still quite warm we have the perfect conditions for weeds. It really is worth keeping on top of them at this time of the year if we can, as any left to seed will be a real pain next spring. We should ideally keep trimming the lawn regularly as well, as it is amazing how quickly it can grow in early autumn. It’s also a good time to repair any damaged areas of grass, either with fresh seed or rolls of turf. Either method should ‘take’ readily enough in September, and will have plenty of time to establish themselves before winter sets in.
Hedges can also be cut this month if they haven’t already been attended to recently, either just for tidiness or to gate back to size and shape. Nesting season is generally considered to end in August, but we should still double-check that our hedge isn’t playing host to any young families of birds before we make a start with the shears or trimmers.
Finally, let’s plan for next spring colour by taking a trip to our local garden centre for some spring bulbs. It’s always best to buy and plant bulbs as soon as they appear in the shops, and a little effort should will be well rewarded by a beautifully welcome display in a few months’ time.
Happy gardening this September!
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.