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Let nature do its job
AS July slides into August, a collective sigh goes up at Tatton Park. In many ways August heralds the start of autumn for the gardener.
To many it is the height of summer, but for us gardeners what is grown is done, all our preparation of winter, nurturing in the spring and the maintenance of summer is over.
Our minds should turn to assessing the season and what can be done to improve matters in the garden for the future.
What I think we can continue to improve is the length of our season, being a predominantly spring garden I think sometimes we lack a little late season interest.
To me, the flowers of late summer and early autumn have some of the richest and most beautiful shades and many of the heleniums and rudbeckias are at their best during September.
It seems their shades – and many other late season flowers – complement the profusion of berries and the first autumn shades of the season.
Sedums are another popular and widely grown group that herald autumn.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, with its dusky pink flowers leaps out of the border and can make very attractive under plantings despite being a sun-loving perennial.
As is the modern way, many grasses planted among these types of late summer / autumn perennials look absolutely stunning.
As the lowering sun shines through grasses they light up in an extraordinary show, grasses such as Feather Top (pennisetum villosum) or molinia caerulea are two cracking examples.
Another, often underused, group of plants are the autumn flowering bulbs.
As the ground is cleared of the early summer shows of geraniums, autumn plantings of colchicums cyclamen and crocus autumnale make spectacular shows under the second flushes of roses for example.
While some gardeners bemoan the beginning of the end of the season, it seems it is nature that knows best the bounty of autumn.
Summer can be planned like a military operation, but early autumn is very much set off by the light and the dew and the cooler, longer nights set in motion a display that only spring can envy.
So plan and plant for autumn dear readers.
Less light should not make us or the garden feel glum, for it is a love and appreciation of every season and change that makes our gardens better.
Do not be too tidy, leave the shredder in the shed a little longer this year, leave the seed heads on the plants for longer and you will be amazed at what early autumn can do.