In The Garden: October

7th October 2011

Autumn Colour

Tips for this month's gardening from National Garden Gift Vouchers

For many gardeners October is a tidy-up month, getting plants and containers ready for winter. It’s also the best time of year for planting shrubs and trees, especially conifers.. Plants are going into dormancy and therefore have the winter to get their roots down and become established while the soil is still warm – before the frosts begin to kick in.

As many outdoor plants come to the end of their flowering period now, it’s time to turn your attention to fragrant indoor plants to lift the spirits. Having scented plants in the house during the winter is an excellent way of improving your sense of well-being: floral and herbal scents have long been recognised for their health and well being benefits With information from PlantforLife Nature’s Remedy you can grow a ‘scentsational’ garden full of mood boosters, stress relievers and stimulants. The gardenia, for example, with its dark green glossy leaves and double white flowers, has long been associated with passion, and is regarded by some as an aphrodisiac. Used in perfume and praised for its aromatic properties it has been given as a gift to loved ones throughout history. Its scent is relaxing and spiritually uplifting, making it a popular ingredient in lotions, creams and oils. Gardenias should be grown indoors as they struggle with temperatures below 15 degrees and need to be kept moist. Keep out of direct sunlight and spray with a fine mist occasionally.

If it’s Autumn colour you’re after, then conifers can provide fabulous splashes of orange, blue or purple. Conifers are cone-bearing seed plants and include cedars, cypresses, firs, junipers, larches, pines, spruces and yews. They’re both practical and visually stunning and can transform a garden into something quite magnificent. They’re a wonderful way of adding colour and shape to your outdoor space especially as many conifers change colour over the course of the year.

The British Conifer Group is running National Conifer Week, from 1 to 9 October, to celebrate their diversity and variety. ‘Love Me, Love My Conifer’, proves that – with several hundred varieties available in the UK, there is a conifer out there to suit everyone and every garden. Some are perfect for balconies and patios; others are great for giving height to borders. They are easy to look after and thrive in the British climate. They need good drainage and water to get them established, but once they’re growing they will need little attention, as they’re pretty disease resistant and maintenance-free.

When it comes to maintenance for October, then pruning is top of the list. It needs to be done before frost sets in, so treat yourself to a new pair of secateurs. A sturdy and strong design with good cutting blades will do the trick for any rose or other pruning you’ve got planned.

On the subject of roses, it’s time to prune back both the ramblers and the climbers. Generally, climbing roses are less vigorous than rambling roses and can be pruned back to a framework of main stems each year. Rambling roses spread far and wide so they are great for training horizontally along a wall or fence. Cuts should be no more than 5mm (¼in) above a dormant bud, and should slope away from it, so that water does not collect on the bud. This applies to all cuts, whether removing dead wood, deadheading or annual pruning. If a dormant bud is not visible, then cut the rose to the height you want. Cuts must be clean so keep your secateurs sharp.
Other jobs this month include planting spring bulbs such as daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and irises. Tulips can be kept back for planting later in the month or even at the start of November in a sunny spot in the border or in containers. Clear away fallen leaves to prevent pests and continue to cut back any dead or damaged stems on perennials and shrubs, leaving any that have decorative seed heads, or those that provide food for birds.

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