Talking of Autumn colours were you able to see the flowers for Harvest Festival in St James’ Church? Some wonderful flowers were brought from people’s gardens and allotments and the talented team set to work to create a beautiful, vibrant display in the church. I have attached photos of a small number of the arrangements but there will be more on the BGA website. At the 10am Service the first hymn was “We plough the fields and scatter…..” How good to sing that hymn – such memories of childhood – mine of St Nicholas Church in Kenilworth and for many other people memories of churches and schools in other parts of the country. It’s what we still do in our gardens isn’t it – turning the soil and scattering seed.
I have started planting my bulbs for spring colour. A small task compared to those gardeners from the `Bedford Parks Department on The Embankment earlier this week. A huge team of people and thousands of bulbs. The Department is to be congratulated on the tremendous display which adorns The Embankment and other parks in Bedford each year. A general rule when planting bulbs is to plant them at a depth 2-3 times the height of the bulb, for example if a bulb is 5cm from the pointed end to the basal plate then plant between 10 and 15cm deep. For naturalising in a lawn or woodland area just scatter handfuls of bulbs across the area and dig a hole wherever they fall – don’t be tempted to adjust their position if you want a naturalistic look. I have also been planting out the many primroses I dug out of my daughter’s lawn in the Spring. They seed themselves everywhere in her garden. They were so tiny then but have been nurtured all summer and are now big enough to survive the winter under my birch trees along with the snowdrops and hellebores. Everything in that part of the garden is currently dark and gloomy but once the birch leaves have been shed and the dappled sunlight gets through it will be a brilliant mass of flowers in the spring.
As the season progresses and we start to spend less time in our garden and more time indoors house plants take on a greater significance. I spend a lot of time in my conservatory but perhaps more so in the winter. I adopt a different watering regime as some plants benefit from a winter rest period – most notably cacti. I stop watering them completely after October and don’t resume again until March. They thrive well on this winter neglect. They were never mine – they are just the ones I cleared out of my son’s bedroom when he went off to university. Some are now enormous – last year I relegated some of them to the plant house where the windows are open all winter to provide a flow of air for the auriculas. Our winters now seem to be so mild that they have survived thus far. Other plants are also on a restricted watering regime – I tend to lift up the pot and if it feels light I give it an overnight soak and then drain off totally and leave off watering for a week or more. With orchids it is easy to see when they need watering. Orchids are epiphytes, and grow by attaching themselves to a tree trunk or other plant. They are not parasitic as they absorb their water and nutrients from rain, air and other debris. In the wild their roots are exposed to sunlight and when grown indoors the roots of an orchid should always be accessible to the light which is why they are presented for sale in transparent pots. If the roots are green no need to water, if the roots are grey drip some water onto the base of the plant and potting bark and then drain thoroughly.
This month tender plants will need protecting from frosts and gales. Roses that have grown quite tall can be cut back a little to prevent wind rock and now is an ideal time to plant bare root roses and deciduous hedging. For those with fruit trees putting grease bands around the trunks, about 18ins above soil level, at this time of the year is a good method for reducing the number of winter moth caterpillars on fruit trees in the spring. The greasy bands trap the wingless females and prevent them from climbing up tree trunks and laying their eggs. The winter moth caterpillars feed on developing fruit buds. On ornamental trees the damage should be tolerated if possible as it will not affect the long term health of the plant. These caterpillars are an important part of the biodiversity trees support including as a food source for nesting birds in the spring. Plant tulip bulbs at the end of November and start taking some of the leaves off hellebores to make way for the flowers. Rake up fallen leaves off lawns before they block out light and moisture from the grass. Put out bird food to encourage winter birds into the garden. So heaps to do this month but whatever you are about in the garden enjoy this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.