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Gardening in September 2008
by Pam Pickard
Although this month we are beginning to prepare for winter all is not lost! Take an autumn colour woodland walk, ideas are suggested at the end of the column. When tidying borders; leave some of the sculptural seed heads, they look stunning covered in a light frost and make a winter home for many insects.
Ornamental Grasses also make effective winter effects. Focus on planning next years planting. At their best in September are; Dahlia’s Asters, sedums, Japanese Anemones, Heleniums, Salvias and the Mountain Ash tree. Visit gardens across the border in Yorkshire.
Jobs for this month
Prevent wind damage by tying in climbers and staking top heavy plants. Cut down Buddlejas, Lavatera and tall roses by a third. Make the most of your compost bin with the debris. Plant up Autumn/Spring hanging baskets and pots; choose foliage plants such as Ivy, bronze Grasses, Box, Phormium, Skimmia and Dwarf Conifers. Add colour with winter Heathers and bulbs to bring colour in the spring.
In the vegetable garden the wet weather has caused blight on Tomatoes and Potatoes, burn or bin the debris to prevent over wintering the disease, do not put on the compost heap. On a sunny day lift potatoes after the tops have died down and onions when the leaves go brown; dry in the sun and store in a dark, cool place. Plant Spring Cabbage, Broad Beans and Garlic and harvest the last of the soft fruits.
In the greenhouse, remove shading and clean the glass and sow early varieties of carrots, peas, hardy lettuces in pots or grow bags. Plant prepared Hyacinths for Christmas; leave in a cool, dark frost free place for 8 weeks then move to a light spot. Cover ponds with net to prevent leaves falling in.
Plant Profile; Ornamental Grasses
Over the past few years Ornamental Grasses have become more common place in the average garden border. Featuring a variety of shapes, sizes and colours these plants could be seen as all-purpose and can suit every situation.
Some grasses come into their own as drought tolerant; Stipa tenuissima for example produces medium sized plumes whilst the popular Festuca glauca, an iridescent blue-grey provides low cover and spiky flowers in midsummer. Anemanthele lessoniana with copper coloured foliage and the green Stipa barbata create a different contrast.
Whereas grassy lawns often fail in shade, many ornamental grasses are suited to these situations. Choose a variegated evergreen such as Holcus mollis; with a striking white variegation to brighten up a dull area, Carex muskingumensis and Luzula sylvatica are both streaked with golden bands.
There are grasses that can provide ground cover; these tend to be vigorous growers which form a thick mat by spreading directly across the soil; thus leaving little chance for weeds. Most are deciduous so will disappear during winter and grow less than 60cm. The weeping habit of Carex elata and Melica nutans forms a green clump with flowers in late spring and summer.
The gold of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ and the cloud of summer flowers on Deschampsia cespitosa will create a stunning effect. Evergreen ground cover grasses include; Carex comans which has wiry bronze foliage whilst Phalaris arundinacea var. picta forms a spreading clump of white up to 1 cm high.
The really showy structural grasses which include bamboos have to be chosen carefully. Some can be a bit boring whilst others are invasive. The most well known is Stipa gigantea providing height and a froth of flowers. Miscanthus sinensis ranges from 1m to 3m tall and although deciduous can be used as screening in the summer months if several plants are placed together. Even the pampas grass made popular in the 1960’s can make a statement; Cortaderia selloana ‘Splendid Star’ is more compact than the pampas we know.
Grasses can be great in containers, they are easy to manage and provide colour and form throughout the year. Try those suggested as ground cover or if you’re looking for bright colours; Acorus gramineus ‘Golden Delight’ and Carex comans ‘Frosted Curls’. The unusual red Uncinia rubra will give a good show and Hakonechloa macra will tumble down a pot like a water fall.
All these grasses are available from the following nurseries
Harrogate Autumn Flower Show, 12 – 14 September www.flowershow.org.uk
Harewood House, includes; Capability Brown parkland, Himalayan garden and walled garden, Harewood, Leeds LS17 9LG
Ripley Castle Gardens, Nr Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Autumn colour woodland walks ~
RHS Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens, Crag Lane, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate ~ there is a plant fair on 7 September.
Duncombe Park, Helmsley, York YO62 5EB
Gardens open through the Yellow Book for charity
14 September ~ Lower Crawshaw, a 3 acre garden with stream, orchard and rose garden ~ Emley, Nr Huddersfield HD8 9SU ~ Tel: 01924 840 980
28 September ~ Constable Burton Hall gardens, a large romantic garden with woodland ~ Nr Leyburn, DL8 5LJ ~ Tel: 01677 450 428
All products mentioned are available at most garden centres and DIY stores.
The column in October will look at ‘greener gardening’ and ‘places to visit will focus on Lancashire. All photographs were taken by Pam Pickard.
If you run a local gardening group or society, please let us know.
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