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What to do in your garden - October 2019

Now that we’ve had some well needed rain to really help with soil moisture, it’s time to get on with autumn planting, and tidy up the garden. Whilst the soil is still warm is the ideal time for planting, and plant roots can begin to establish over the winter. Trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs are in abundance. What a glorious time of year with autumn leaf colours, berries and flowering plants to fill your garden.

  • Tree planting: Autumn is the best time to plant a tree. Containerised trees can be planted at any time of the year time unless the ground is frozen or waterlogged, but in the cooler and usually wetter conditions at this time of year the tree roots will start to establish over the autumn and winter months so that in the spring it will burst into growth. Here’s our selection of trees for smaller gardens with different attributes:
    • Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’: Purple-leaved plum. This popular garden and street tree has pretty pale pink flowers in spring, followed by attractive purple foliage. Grow in well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Approximate height and spread in 20 years: 5m x 4m
    • Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’: Weeping ornamental pear. A very attractive weeping tree with white flowers in spring and narrow silver willow-like foliage. Approximate height and spread in 20 years: 3m x3m. Needs well-drained soil and a sunny aspect.
    • Amelanchier lamarckii: Snowy Mespilus. This tree has so much to offer: pretty white flowers in spring (which turn into purple-black berries in autumn). Leaves show brilliant orange and red autumn colour. Likes moist but well-drained soil. Good on chalky soils. Approximate height and spread in 20 years: 4m x 3m.
    • Cotoneaster salicifolius ‘Rothschildianus’: A vigorous, semi-evergreen shrubby tree which retains some leaves over winter. Ideal as a screening plant. Creamy-white flowers in early summer, followed by golden yellow fruits in autumn. Approximate height and spread in 20 years: 5m x 3m.
    • Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’: Whitebeam. Stunning large silvery-grey leaves, with white blossom in late spring, turning into dark red berries in autumn. Approximate height and spread in 20 years: 7m x 5m. Grow in well-drained soil in full sun or light shade.
    • Malus ‘Evereste’: Flowering crab apple. Small, neat tree smothered in beautiful white blossom in spring, and ornamental orange fruits in autumn. Approximate height and spread in 20 years: 5m x 4m
  • Tree planting and aftercare guidelines:

    1. Before planting your tree, water the pot thoroughly and allow to drain
    2. If planting in a lawn, cut a circle of turf at least 60-90cm in diameter
    3. Dig a hole twice the width of the pot and fork over the base
    4. Sprinkle Rootgrow™(granular mixture of mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria for tree roots) evenly into the planting hole
    5. Place tree on top of the granules ensuring the roots are in direct contact with Rootgrow™, then backfill with your topsoil (mixed with a bucketful of planting compost)
    6. Drive in a tree stake a little off centre of the hole
    7. Remove pot from the tree and tease out any matted roots
    8. Position tree against stake with top of root ball level with surrounding soil
    9. Replace remaining soil, firming in well
    10. Secure tree to stake with an adjustable strap
    11. Water thoroughly, then at least once a week during the first growing season
    12. Apply some general fertiliser around every spring

  • Autumn and winter flowering bedding plants are ready to plant to inject colour into your garden right now. Chrysanthemums are stunning and flower right through the autumn. Plant spring bedding such as wallflowers, forget-me-nots and sweet William. Pansies and violas are the stalwarts that will flower through winter in a sunny position in hanging baskets and containers – a huge range of colours available to match your spring bulb colour scheme.
  • Autumn is the perfect time to prepare the ground and plant a hedge. We have a range of hedging plants in store and online. Here’s a quick guide to our top 5 favourite plants and their best features:
    1. “Common laurel” (Cherry laurel): (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Rotundifolia’) One of the best evergreens for a dense, vigorous, bushy hedge. White flowers (good for pollinating insects) in mid to late spring, followed by berries (which are poisonous). When grown as a hedge the flowers are usually trimmed anyway so the berries do not pose a problem. Tough and tolerant of shade, laurel has a fast growth rate of 30-60cm per year, and should be planted around 90cm apart (3ft)
    2. “Red Robin”: (Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’) – very popular evergreen grown for its attractive glossy foliage – in spring the new growth is flushed red, then gradually becomes green over the summer. Happy in sun or part shade in a well-drained, fertile soil. Height up to 4 metres (in 10-20 years) but usually grown to around 90-180cm (3-6ft) as a hedge. Grows around 30cm per year. Plant 50-60cm apart (18in to 2ft)
    3. “Firethorn” (Pyracantha): useful, tough evergreen with thorny stems - good as a dense barrier hedge. Grows well even in shady position. Creamy-white flowers in spring followed by brightly coloured berries throughout winter. Growth rate of around 50cm per year. Available in yellow, orange or red berry colours. Plant 50cm apart (21in)
    4. “Leylandii” or “Leyland Cypress”: (x Cuprocyparis leylandii). Very fast-growing (up to 1m -3ft in a year) tall conifer which needs to be trimmed before it reaches a height which is too tall to manage (ideally maintain at 1.8m: 6ft) Plant 60-75cm apart (2-2.5ft). A useful hedge to make a quick screen, if kept under control
    5. “Privet” :(Ligustrum ovalifolium) a widely grown semi-evergreen (although usually keeps most of its leaves through winter, unless the weather is really cold) traditional hedging plant which looks neat when trimmed. Creamy-white flowers in mid-summer. Growth rate approximately 30cm per year. Plant 30-45cm (1ft-18in) apart
  • Tidy up your patio and paths by removing moss and algae from hard surfaces to help prevent areas become slippery over winter. Use a proprietary hard surfaces cleaner – a full range is available at our garden centres or online
  • How to Grow Dendrobium orchids: there are over a thousand species! The most popular variety that we sell at Longacres is Dendrobium nobile, also known as a soft cane orchid, which has showy flowers along the length of the cane in white, pink or pale purple. It is easy to grow and, if happy, will re-flower on the older pseudobulbs (canes). Cool growing dendrobiums such as this flower best when the winter temperature is around 10 °C, and summer temperatures are around 18°C. You can place your dendrobium outdoors in a shady spot in summer. Plants need maximum light in winter when the flower canes ripen to produce flowers. However, they must be kept virtually dry in October and November, when the canes will lose their leaves. This dry period encourages flower buds to form from January. In spring and summer, Dendrobium nobile likes a good light but not direct sunlight, and high humidity. Water as soon as the compost dries out (but do not overwater). A helpful tip is to dunk in lukewarm water and allow to drain (once a week in the growing season if necessary). Feed with a proprietary orchid fertiliser every third watering. Only repot into the next pot size up, when your orchid is really pot bound (the plant roots may overflow the container). Divide your orchid when it has 7 or more canes, not before
  • Sowing sweet peas in autumn is beneficial as the seedlings may flower earlier (next summer) than those sown in spring. Overwinter in an unheated greenhouse, cold frame or cool but light place. Pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushiness. Sweet peas can be planted outdoors once hardened off (meaning get them used to colder conditions, around April)
  • Growing blueberries: these shrubs tick all the boxes with their pretty flowers in spring, delicious fruit in summer and good autumn foliage colour. If you have acidic soil (ericaceous) then plant them in the ground. Many blueberries are self-fertile but benefit from bigger fruit if two or more plants are grown. If not, they make great container plants – use a loam-based John Innes ericaceous compost and incorporate controlled-release fertiliser pellets such as Miracle-Gro for acid loving plants (or alternatively use a liquid fertiliser for ericaceous plants) to feed them during the growing season. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged. It is best to grow blueberries in a sheltered position in sun or part shade, and protect the container over winter by wrapping with bubble wrap. Late spring frosts can damage the flowers so it is beneficial to wrap horticultural fleece around the plant for protection.
  • Vegetable plants: plant garlic, onion sets and spring cabbage - sow spinach and parsley for a winter crop. Sow mini leaves for autumn and winter – kale, swiss chard, corn salad and cress, lettuce and rocket. Microgreens (such as opal basil and broccoli greens) and the old favourite -mustard and cress - can be sown indoors all year round.