Gardening with Jo: September and October are pivotal gardening months

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening with Jo: September and October are pivotal gardening months

Malus Evereste - the nicest of the crab apples

September and October are always pivotal months, especially in the garden. Hallowe'en is just around the corner, and we just had the autumn equinox last week, so the nights are now longer than the days.

The weather is still pretty good - but the mornings and evenings are cooler and a real autumnal feel is creeping in. Now though is time to plan ahead, so I’m planting bulbs to beat the band and adding a few new additions to my autumn beds to keep the colour and interest going through this season and into winter.

For seasonal interest and colour that will see you through to the winter, here are some of our favourites

Rudbekia Goldsturm

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ bears wide, black-eyed, single, yellow daisy flowers with cone-shaped, black-brown centres from August to October. It’s ideal for creating a splash of late-summer colour in ornamental borders and works well in prairie-style schemes with ornamental grasses. It’s short enough not to need staking, and doesn’t spread so fast that frequent division is necessary, making it a very easy-care plant.

Echinancea Purpurea

Echinaceas have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the trend for prairie-style planting. They’re easy to grow as they tolerate most soils, and their sturdy nature means that staking is unnecessary.

Echinacea purpurea has pink, daisy-like flowers with a large, cone-shaped centre. It’s perfect for growing in drifts among the border or among grasses and rudbeckias in a prairie-style planting scheme, and is extremely attractive to pollinators. Its flowers are long-lived and are excellent for cutting.

Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Sky'

Commonly known as switchgrass, is a perennial, deciduous grass native to the prairies of North America. In gardens, it’s particularly valued for the upright foliage, masses of hazy flowers in early autumn followed by gorgeous autumn colour.

Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Sky’ has glaucous, blue-green foliage topped with blue-green flowers in early autumn. It looks fabulous planted in bold clumps that can sway in the breeze. Later in autumn, the foliage turns a lovely golden-yellow colour.

Liquidamber styraciflua

Liquidamber’s autumn colour is second to none, ranging from fiery red, orange and yellow through to sumptuous purple. The Liquidamber is a beautiful tree that adds stunning autumn interest but its exaggerated maple leaf makes it a great tree for all year round. If you haven’t room for a tree then try a lovely ball shaped plant that gives you the same colour and form in a smaller size.

Nandina Firepower

Fire Power’ is a compact, slow-growing shrub. It offers a festival of colours with its pinnate foliage broad embossed leaflets, from pink in spring to light green in summer, then bright red in autumn and winter. It produces conical clusters of small, star-shaped white flowers in mid-summer among bamboo-like leaves. In autumn, the leaves turn shades of fiery red and copper and the flowers are followed by shiny, round, scarlet fruits. With several seasons of interest, this dwarf form of heavenly bamboo is a hardworking plant for a sunny spot especially where border space is limited.

Pennisteum Red Pony Tails

This is a lovely grass with mounds of bright green foliage and topped with large bottlebrush like flowers which open distinctly red fading through purple shades to beige. It needs a sunny, well drained spot.

Height 80cm – 1m. Deciduous so cut back to ground level in February for strong new growth

Even though things are really showing signs of improvement and gradually getting back to a degree of normality, there is a new normal, one that is more conscious of health and mental health.

It's not about living to work anymore; it's about social interactions and having downtime and we all know the relationship between us getting outside, sunlight, oxygen and our metal wellness

We also know that time outside is good for us physically. Time spent in nature reduces anxiety, promotes creativity and contributes to heart health as well as weight management and general physical fitness, so what better way to do this than to get into the garden? Studies have shown that 120 minutes a week of gardening will increase your well-being and also create a great sense of achievement.

Ahis time of year I just put on another layer as the sun is still warming, even though the temperature is dropping. We also still love eating outdoors, and again we just put on a coat and as the temperature drops we light the fire and there really is nothing better.

So what can we do in the garden at this time of year? Well firstly, leaves are starting to fall, so clearing or blowing these and pulling the few weeds that have escaped to this time of year will ensure that you are ahead of the game in the spring and improve the look of the beds.

I love planting my pots with plants that will give colour through the colder months with something like skimmias or cyclamens. I’ve chosen to add colour this year. Last year's winter planting was white and I loved it but I’ve found much more colour coming back into my garden (and my wardrobe - I'm not sure if it's a mindset thing).

This time of year is still bountiful if you have fruit trees so keep harvesting that fruit and using it as much a possible. I always fill the freezer with all my fruit items and then nothing goes to waste. I also invested in a dehydrator a couple of years ago and I use this for apples and pears and add them to granola, it's just delicious. If anyone is thinking along these lines or has one already, I just love making kale crisps with hummus and even the kids love them. I’ve also been making fruit leather as it's a great way of using up fruit.

If you have a crab apple tree then now is the time to make the crab apple jelly and we just love this too. My favourite is the Malus Evereste which has in my mind the nicest crab apples, but also has a wonderful white spring blossom, I love trees that give interest at multiple times of year like this.

To continue reading this article, please register and log in.

Registration is free and you can also sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with your latest local news!


Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.