Garden Blog | October
With nights lengthening and already having had a couple of light frosts here at Deene Park, it’s time to start deconstructing our summer displays of tender plants, and replacing them with fresh winter displays.
Many of the plants that we use for our summer displays are grown from cuttings which we have already taken, or from seed that will be sown in spring. Plants propagated annually in either of these ways can be dispatched to the compost heap when their time in the garden is over. There are, however, some shrubby perennials such as brugmansias that need to be kept for future years. Although it looks rather brutal, we prune the top growth hard back, together with maintaining a compact root system, and house the pruned plants in our cool glasshouse, where they will slowly return into growth before returning to the garden next summer.
For a couple of years now we have grown our brugmansias in ‘Air-Pot’ containers. These pots have really enhanced healthy root development, as the shape of the wall stops root circling and encourages the development of a mass of fibrous roots. The additional roots mean better take up of nutrients and water, leading to faster growth and healthier plants. The brugmansias remain in the same pot throughout their summer stint in the garden, and winter retreat in the glasshouse, resulting in minimal root disturbance. Being made of recycled plastic, these pots are good where the environment is concerned too.
Also returning to their winter quarters after putting on a glorious show throughout the summer are our cannas, which, like brugmansias, are being brought under cover to protect them from winter frosts. The act of digging up our cannas results in them being divided in the process…we’ve turned two large plants into fifteen new ones. Our other Canna varieties have also divided well, resulting in a mass of new plants for next year. Propagation is one of the great joys of gardening, and reproducing our favourite plants has a little touch of magic about it, whether by seed, cuttings, or by division.
In last month’s blog, we revealed that we had been blessed with a bumper crop of apples on the espalier trained trees in our new orchard in the Old Kitchen Garden…this month it’s the turn of quince to delight. Our specimen of quince variety ‘Meech’s Prolific’ has produced its first fruits even though It’s only a couple of years since we planted our new orchard. Quince, know botanically as Cydonia oblonga, is originally native to Armenia, Turkey, and Georgia, through northern Iran to Afghanistan. Having been cultivated for centuries throughout Europe, quinces have traditionally been used to make aromatic and tasty preserves, and the English word marmalade is derived from the Portuguese word marmelo, meaning quince. From Europe, quince was taken to North America by early English settlers. It is here that the variety ‘Meech’s Prolific’ originates. It was discovered in Connecticut around the middle of the 19th century, and is named in honour of Reverend William W. Meech, who first introduced it into cultivation. In his definitive book ‘Quince Culture’ published in 1888, he described it as the “most uniformly prolific of all known varieties”. The quality of this variety is without doubt, and is still one of the very best available. Quince is not a widely cultivated fruit, but is definitely worth growing, and deserving of greater popularity.
With spring flowering garden bulbs now safely planted out, it’s time to turn our attention to indoor bulbs for Christmas and early spring. Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’ are delicate, pure white, and delightfully scented…they are also easily forced into flowering just in time for Christmas. Using any good multipurpose compost, plant several bulbs per pot ensuring that they are not touching each other, with their tips poking slightly above the surface, water well, and place in a sunny and warm spot indoors. Before you know it, they’ll be bursting into growth and flowering their hearts out in time for the arrival of Santa. For colour and scent following on from Narcissus ‘Paperwhite’, you can’t get better than hyacinths. When purchasing your Hyacinth bulbs, ensure that they are described as ‘prepared’, as these have been treated to ensure early flowering. It’s always best to wear gloves when handling prepared Hyacinth bulbs as they can cause irritation to the skin. The process of potting-up hyacinths is exactly the same as with Narcissus, but they do require a different regime once potted-up. At this point, hyacinths benefit a short period in a dark and cool environment to encourage root development. This can be either in a garage/basement, shed, or simply outdoors against a north facing wall. Cover the bulbs with sheets of plastic to exclude light, and ensure that they don’t dry out. When a good root system has developed, and the growing tips have extended to an inch or so, it’s time to bring your hyacinths indoors to a bright and warm spot. By early spring your efforts will be rewarded with a mass of colour and scent…delightful.