October Gardening tips with Sue Beesley

October isn't the end it's a beginning according to gardening expert Sue Beesley

It’s easy to think that the garden must be all but finished by October.  But last year I toured my garden on October  18th with a camera and notepad and I recorded 60 plants in flower and another 41 plants with berries, leaf colour or great shape.  The shortening days and the unwelcome return of Greenwich Mean Time means less time to enjoy your garden, but there’s no need to shut the doors and declare the year finished.

Some late flowerers are on their second flush, having been cut back after flowering earlier in the year. These included several hardy Geraniums and the ever-reliable Helenium Sahin’s Early Flowerer. Others are natural autumn flowerers, offering a welcome gift of fresh colour, notably Asters with their rich, jewel colours and Nerines, with their startling Barbie-pink flowers.  Brightly coloured berries are as decorative as the prettiest summer flowers, especially the rowans, or Sorbus, with heavy heads of red, gold or and pink berries glowing in the late sun.  

Even if there is little colour to enjoy in your garden now, October is a great month for planning ahead.  Bulb planting is my top priority, as these ensure a wave of early colour.  I’m going to plant ‘Hawera’, a dwarf narcissus, in drifts under the apple trees, then tulips for a bold splash of rich colour through the borders.

My current favourite is ‘Carnaval de Nice’, a plump white tulip streaked with magenta.  Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ produces perfect purple spheres in early May, standing high above the green mounds of herbaceous foliage which will break into flower underneath.  I think bulbs look best with many of one or two varieties rather than dolly mixtures.  If your local garden centre doesn’t offer multipack offers, try buying online. It’s often a lot cheaper and bulbs travel well.

Sue Beesley was runner up of the BBC’s Gardener of the decade and is the owner of Lodge Lane Nursery and Bluebell Cottage Gardens in Dutton, Cheshire. Check out her website www.lodgenursery.co.uk

Sue’s top tip for October

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Trees will soon start shedding leaves and I know it's a chore raking them up, but leaf mould is the best homemade compost you can get, so think of it as black gold, pile it up in a corner and let it rot down for year.And finally...Don't be in too much of a hurry to cut back this year's spent perennials. Some have wonderful winter 'bones' and also provide seeds for birds and snug homes for ladybirds. We only cut plants down if they look truly awful or start falling down of their own accord.

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