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The Garden in October

This is the time of year when you can start thinking about 'putting your garden to bed'. This means giving it a good once-over with secateurs and trowel. Cut back any straggly growth on perennials, but leave any that's still looking good as many plants have nice seed heads and stems which can persist right through the winter: many grasses are in this category. On the other hand, some plants such as Catmint can do with a major cutting back. It's also the time to start collecting leaves. If you have a big garden, put them on the compost heap in a big layer so that you can overlay them with grass clippings from the final mows. This will weigh them down and help them to produce a usable and attractive compost. 

Liquidambar, Co Cork

Liquidambar styraciflua growing in a garden in Co Cork, October.

Autumn colour is caused by the retreat of chlorophyll (the green pigment) from the leaves back into the plant, leaving other pigments for a few weeks longer. This is triggered by a change in temperature from warm to cold. In a mild climate like ours, this is often a very wishy-wasy affair - we don't have the sudden extremes of a continental climate, so our autumn colour can be far from the spectacular displays of North America or northern Europe. However, there are some plants which regularly provide excellent autumn colour in this climate, and some of our native or naturalised plants (oak and beech, for example) have a subtler yellow or russet shade which have their own charm. See trees with autumn interest....

Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet gum) on the Left and Nyssa sylvatica on the right, both in Mt Usher gardens in Co Wicklow.

Some woody plants with good autumn colour in Irish gardens

Acer palmatum and varieties (Japanese maple)

Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura)

Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)

Cotinus coggygria and varieties (Smoke bush)

Euonymous alatus (Spindle)

Fagus sylvatica (Beech)

Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet gum)

Nyssa sylvatica (Tupelo)

Parottia persica (Persian ironwood)

Parthenocissus speciaes (Boston ivy / Virginia creeper)

Taxodium distichum (Swamp cypress)

Spring bulbs. Now is the right time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Choose them carefully: for wilder areas choose ones which naturalise (ie spread and for more formal areas (pots and 'flower beds') choose a bulb such as tulips. We are well-stocked with our favourite bulbs, many of which are grown in Ireland. Not all bulbs are the same-some are much bigger than others and will consequently flower better and sooner. Some imported cheaper bulbs have also been found to carry eel-worms, a microscopic parasite which spreads through the garden destroying bulbs. Be sure to plant them at the correct depth, with approximately their own height of soil above them. See our range of spring bulbs, including excellent species for naturalising....