Gardeners’ Blog – October

Welcome to October – the month of glorious colourful leaves.  We will be picking up leaves all month and well into November and beyond.  As always, the leaves will be composted in the Nursery Yard and returned to the soil next autumn/winter.  We have a large pile of leaf litter ready to bring out into the Gardens to help revitalise the beds that have been working so hard over the last growing season.

The vast majority of the bedding has been planted but the bulbs are still waiting to go in.  There will be thousands of tulips on the Terrace, and these will add grace and elegance to the beds in April and May.

The main lawn was scarified, aerated, top dressed, over- seeded and fertilised by a team from ALS who brought in three tractors and 7 tonnes of top dressing to do the job.  It rained just after the work was complete which was ideal as the water was able to penetrate the soil and helped wash the top dressing and fertiliser into the soil.  The peacocks had a great time pecking up the recently sown grass seed. By the middle of October, the grass should be looking very green and lush, all the ravages of the last season put to rest (that is if the peacocks have left any seed).

We will be aerating and over-seeding other areas of the lawns as necessary.  In particular, the Terrace grass will be spiked with a garden fork to allow water and air to get to the grass roots.  This time of the year is perfect for this as the soil will be quite soft – so the fork will penetrate with ease.  Remember if you are doing this yourself, place the fork prongs into the soil and then use your foot to push the fork into the ground.  Don’t try and stab the fork in using your arms and shoulders as this will hurt.

We received delivery of over 600 plants ready for planting in the second section of the Herbaceous Border.  These plants represent the ‘hot end’ of the colour spectrum, the reds, oranges and yellows.  The bed needs final removal of the let over plants, digging and composting, and then replanting, we hope to get Birmingham Metropolitan College horticultural students involved.  The Nursery Yard looks very colourful at the moment with all the plants in flower in the frames.

Towards the end on the month, the dahlias will be lifted as will all the other tender perennials.  Some of these empty blank spaces, in the Grass Garden in particular, will be filled with light installations for Christmas at the Botanical Gardens.  Other tender plants will be wrapped in hessian or covered with straw.

The Cacti bed on the Terrace will be stripped after the Cactus and Succulent Show which is here on the 1st of October.  They will be moved to their winter home in the Butterfly House where they can be kept drier than outside in the Gardens.  The cacti could cope with our cold winter as normal temperature ranges in deserts are from minus 15°C to over 40°C in a single day, but they resent sitting with wet roots.

The indoor team have been busy replacing the interpretation labels for the educational plants in the Tropical House. Next time you walk through, be sure to read interesting facts on plants that we use in everyday life. Plants that we use for food, clothing, shelter, fuel, medicine and social reasons are interpreted. These include, chocolate, panama hat plant, screw pine, rubber, cardamom and peepul tree.

Now that we have passed the autumn equinox, the glasshouse team will reduce watering and stop feeding the plants in the glasshouses. Plant growth will now slow rapidly and with lower temperatures will not need so much food and water.

The Mediterranean House will have its floral display changed this month. The summer display of Begonias, Petunias and Cannas will be swapped for Plectranthus (Coleus), Chrysanthemums and Veltheimia.

Although it is only autumn, the indoor team are already thinking of spring blooms. Daffodils, tulips and Christmas flowering hyacinths will be planted in pots in the nursery this month to provide an early spring display in the Mediterranean House. These will be placed in a cool, dark cold frame outside to encourage a good root system before being brought into a bright and warm greenhouse in December, January and February for an early spring.