Gardeners’ Blog – October 2016

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 slow down, and with lower temperatures, they won’t 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 Veltheimias.

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.

We have left removing our summer bedding until much later this year as the Begonias have been so stunning, but all good things must come to an end, so the bedding will be coming out and the new winter bedding put in ready for the new bulbs to be planted. Expect a vibrant display of tulips on the Terrace in late spring!

We shall start to rake up leaves in earnest as they fall and put them in the compost bays, and last year’s composted leaves will be spread on our precious bulbs in the Winter Border. Other compost made from grass cuttings, the old bedding and general green waste will also be distributed around the Garden, adding vital nutrients and humus back into the soil.

Lawn areas will be edged and tidied, and areas of grass that need reseeding will be seeded – we will have to fence these areas off to allow the grass to re-grow so please be aware of the fences.

The bed beneath the old yew at the rear of the Lawn Aviary will come to life with plants that can tolerate shade and drier conditions – many of them evergreen. We have already planted 250 early flowering Narcissus ‘Tamara’ for a bright start to the year! All the plants are available for purchase in the ‘Shop in the Gardens’.

Part of the Grass Garden is being replanted with shrubs that give a good autumn display that will complement the many grasses in the area.

A further area of the Grass Garden is going to be cut down in readiness for replanting. Existing plants that we want to keep will be un touched, plants that are to come out will be cut down to make it easier to work the area.

Rhododendrons in the Rhododendron Walk are having their lower branches removed so that fungal spores which may arrive in the Gardens by various means will not be splashed up onto the lower leaves where they will thrive and cause problems.

Plants to look out for at the Gardens this month are the Liquidamber and Liriodendron trees changing colour and the Fothergilla major on the American Bank turning bright yellow. The grasses in the Grass Garden are also looking very stately.

Gardener Chris’s favourite plant for October has to be Nerine bowdenii, with its spider-like flowers in light pink, which have a scent reminiscent of her old Sindy doll!

Its name comes from the water nymph of Greek legend, Nerine, and bowdenii after Athelstan Boden-Cornish, who is credited with introducing the plant into British garden in 1902.

Nerine gives a spectacular floral display of pink, lily-like blooms with recurved petals in autumn, which can be seen in a swathe of pink on Paxton’s Prospect.  The flowers are produced after the leaves have died back which gives the unusual architectural look of the stems coming erect from the ground.  They are found in mountain screes of South Africa, but in Europe they benefit from being at the base of a south-facing wall, in fertile free draining compost, keeping the bulbs warm and dry in summer while dormant. Bulbs are fully hardy, but early frost can kill off flowers.

However, there are many Nerines that are not fully hardy and need a cool glasshouse to survive. This year they can be seen in our new Alpine House in the Alpine Yard. These Nerines have flowers in many colours but not yellow, they also appear to sparkle in the light, and new cultivars will be arranged in the glasshouse to show off their full potential.