October can be a great month with spells of lovely weather to enjoy and the golden warmth of its light invests everything in its glow. Nights have a nip in them but the air is soft again and we just need to relax and enjoy the days.
The productive fruit and vegetable patch is a joy. Apples and pears should be loaded with fruit and if yours are, harvesting is an ongoing pleasure. Some apples ripen on the tree and can be picked and eaten immediately. Other apple varieties and pears are picked carefully and stored till they are ready to eat. Older gardeners used to be able to produce fresh stored apples and pears until March. What an achievement and sad that supermarket availability means that this skill is dying out. A ripening pear changes from green to golden yellow and you know you are in for a treat. If you have a quince and it bears fruit, you will have a scented feast (and Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book will inspire you). Quince only appear rarely in shops, but London commuters have access to fabulous market stalls catering for the middle eastern market which appear to stock them. A small reward for their travels.
There is also fruit to be enjoyed in the flower garden. Crab apples make fine small trees for the smaller garden. ’Golden Hornet’ ripens about now and its yellow colouring is wonderful in autumn sunlight. One of the best for ornament is ‘Red Sentinel’, whose fruit hangs long after the leaves have shed. Fruit-eating birds will take their share when the weather is cold – but that’s OK by me.
One rose has outstanding hips (a phrase to be used carefully in female company). Rosa moyessi ‘Geranium’ is a selection made at Wisley in the 1930’s from seed collected in China in 1903 and named after a local missionary, Rev J Moyes. It has dazzling single red flowers, 5 large petals around a centre of goldens stamens. In autumn, there is a tremendous crop of large elongated brilliant red rose hips. It is a true star of the autumn garden and I think I need one! It will make a big shrub for the back of a border.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides and its bigger cousin C. willmottiana are both late-flowering herbaceous perennials blessed with deep blue flowers and fresh leaves, even this late in the season. The first makes useful ground cover at 1ft high and its mildly spreading habit allows it to slowly invade and make a decent colony. The later is taller at 3 ft high.
Otherwise, there is a mass of colour from hardy fuchsias, asters, chrysanthemums with dahlias crescendo-ing until the first frost bites. Thinking ahead (but not wanting to tear the garden to pieces too early) it is worthwhile planting spring bedding plants and bulbs as soon as possible. If you get them established in the damp warm soil of autumn they have time to put down roots and bulk up before standing still for the winter months. Consequently, I am always torn with the village planter – should I replace the cannas soon with bulbs and bedding to get a better display next spring or leave the glorious cannas later at the expense of a meaner spring display?
But as I write this all we need is some rain to damp the desert before I can plant anything.
Happy Gardening, Giles Derry
Dates for your diary
Tuesday 8 October. 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Creative Pruning. Pruning plants correctly seems a big worry to newer gardeners, worried about harming their plants rather than bringing out the best from them. Autumn and winter are prime trimming, pruning and butchering season so sharpen your secateurs and join us to learn how to do it the expert way. Guests and non-members (both £2) are always welcome.
Tuesday 19 November 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Annual General Meeting followed by wine and nibbles. Do join us to hear about what we have done this year and our plans and ideas for 2020. We also need stimulating with new ideas for next year: talks, visits, workshops etc. We are not too proud to copy the ideas of others!