Autumn in the Garden
And just like that, the trees are turning all manner of orange and gold and the garden is slowing down to get ready for winter. Or is it?
I do love Autumn, the gorgeous colour, wrapping up for brisk walks and planning where all the bulbs are going to go! But I’m always a bit sad that summer has gone, and my supply of flowers starts to dwindle. Although as I write this the weather is unseasonably warm, I’m still getting plenty of Dahlias, a few Cosmos, Roses and Snapdragons, and the late Chrysanthemums are beginning to get going.
HOW I HAVE GROWN CHRYSANTHEMUMS.
I grew Chrysanthemums for the first time last year as an experiment. I wanted something to follow, or grow along side, the Dahlias. So, I got a few plants of a late flowering variety called Avignon Pink, which remind me a bit of a small Café au Lait Dahlia and are very lovely. They grew well in pots in the greenhouse, and I overwintered them there until the spring. I put them in the ground once they had got going again and they have just started flowering beautifully.
This year I ordered more varieties, late ones again, from Chrysanthemums Direct. I went for a more varied colour choice and flower shape but sticking to an autumn colour palette.
However, as a novice chrysanthemum grower, I think I’ve planted them in the wrong place (a bit like I did with some of the dahlias!) and probably shouldn’t have planted them outside at all. I was running out of space in my cut flower patch and the greenhouse was full of tomatoes, cucumbers and chilli, so no room there either! Of course, being impatient and not reading up on what I should do lead to this year’s mistake. It’s been a very mild October so they are all beginning to flower but I think as soon as it gets very cold, that will be it!
For late Chrysanthemums here is a rough guide:
- They can be grown outside in the garden if they are in a sunny spot and you aren’t likely to get frosts in November. This is when they will be flowering beautifully and you don’t want to loose all those lovely blooms!
- If not, its recommended to grow in pots. They can be left outside but brought into the greenhouse at the end of October. Or if you have one, a polytunnel would be perfect for late chrysanthemums.
- They will get very tall if left to their own devices (one of my mistakes!) so need to be stopped, or pinched out, in August time. This creates a bushier plant but still nice long stems.
Overwintering late Chrysanthemums:
- Last year I left the plants in their pots overwinter. I cut them back and let the compost become dry, keeping them in the greenhouse. In the spring, as they started to wake up, I began to give them a bit of light watering until they got going.
- This year they are all in the ground so I will dig them up. They can then be cleaned of all the soil, the tops trimmed to about 15cm and the roots the same.
- I will let them become completely dry and then put in some dry, loose compost over winter. They need to be kept dry and cool until the spring.
This is just a general guide but if you are interested in growing them next year then you should head to the Chrysanthemums Direct website. It has all the different varieties available (beware, its like choosing tulip bulbs...once you get going your basket gets very full!) and a huge amount of information about growing each variety, how and when to stop them etc. Its definitely the place to start on your Chrysanthemum journey!
So, my first two seasons of chrysanthemums haven’t been brilliant but I won’t say a failure, I’ve had flowers after all! Gardening is all about learning new things and being patient. Next year I will have this new knowledge to help guide me through and, hopefully, have more success!
AUTUMN SOWN SEEDS.
Now is a good time to get your autumn sown annual seeds in too. Sweet peas are at the top of this list for me as doing them now makes the plants much stronger, they bloom earlier and they have much longer, straight stems. Some people sow them now and another lot in the spring to get Sweet Peas from late spring all through the summer. It isn’t really summer in my book without Sweet Peas scrambling up tepees or obelisks.
I will also do some Snapdragons, Ammi Majus, Orlaya, Cornflower and Larkspur. All of these will be sown in small modules to start with and moved on as they get bigger. They will be left in the greenhouse to do their thing and I will only give them extra protection with a bit of fleece or bubble wrap if it looks like the temperatures are going to get super cold.
I did snapdragons for the first time this last year and although they didn’t all get to be very big, they have nonetheless kept flowering all summer. I still have a few flowering now.
Plants from autumn sown seed are usually bigger and stronger. They grow slowly over the winter months and when it starts to get warmer in spring, they have usually got a good root system already and are just ready to take off and give you earlier flowers!
HOW TO GROW RANUNCULUS.
Every year I say never again, and every year I ignore my own advice and end up getting them started! They are such a faff and a very temperamental plant, not liking it too cold or too hot, too wet or too dry! Divas! Autumn is a good time to get them started and you will have beautiful blooms by the end of April.
I dig the corms up when they finish flowering in late spring and dry them out, a bit like you can do with dahlias. Or buy new corms from a good supplier, mine originally came from Swan Cottage Flowers. I ignore them in this shrivelled up state until late October and then bring them back to life.
Many of the corms will have multiplied or become much bigger over their growing season in spring, so I increase my stock of corms most years.
They get a soak in water overnight to rehydrate the corm, this is when you can gently separate corms that have multiplied. Then I make a nice loose mix of peat free compost and vermiculite, to help with drainage, and pot them into 9cm pots. The compost should be kept damp but not wet. They don’t like to sit in wet compost and if it does get very cold you don’t want the water to freeze and the roots to rot! As they begin to grow and get more leaves, its wise to keep an eye on watering. They will need a bit more water to keep those new leaves hydrated, but always remember, not too much! They are kept in the greenhouse until they can be planted out, I did mine at the end of February this year.
They still need protection from frost and as I don’t have a polytunnel to protect them, I construct a makeshift tunnel (I got mine from Gardening Naturally) over them with half hoops and garden fleece to protect them from the elements. You still have to watch over them, making sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely and open the ends of the tunnel for fresh air to go through during the day because you don’t want them getting mouldy. As the weather improves, I might take the cover off during the day if it’s going to be sunny. Another thing they don’t like is it getting too hot, it makes them think it’s summer and time to stop flowering! But put the cover back over again at night, and always watch the weather forecast for unexpected late frosts. They soon bulk up and then the flower stems and buds start to arrive. Don’t be tempted to pick too soon and you will get lovely long stems!
As you can see they are a faff. But those stunning blooms are so worth all the effort! If you want to try growing them Zoe at Swan Cottage Flowers does a great grow-along on her Instagram page. She also does a second round of planting in the new year for later flowers and for in pots if you don’t have room in the garden.
So, there is plenty to be keeping us busy in our Autumn gardens and we haven’t even covered lifting (or not!) Dahlias, the veg patch, preparing the soil for next year or planting out our spring tulips. We can talk about those next time!