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September - In the Garden

It’s easy to think we have reached the end of summer and the garden is slowing down, but some plants are just getting into their stride. Michaelmas daisies and Japanese anemones are flowering now, and both are reliably hardy perennials. Japanese anemones come in singles and doubles, in shades of palest to darkest pink, and white. They will spread through the border and are unfussy and easy to grow. Rudbeckias are another late summer flowerer but whilst some like Goldsturm (flowering now in the bumblebee garden) and Herbstsonne are truly perennial, Rudbeckia hirta varieties are less long-lived. Many grasses are flowering and adding texture to the garden, holding dew and raindrops elegantly.

Possibly the star performers in the garden now are dahlias. They come in all shades except blue, and in a vast array of shapes and sizes. They are tuberous plants native to Mexico and Central America. Traditionally gardeners lifted the tubers and stored them dry and dormant over the winter, but nowadays more people are finding they survive in the ground over winter, provided they are given a good mulch, and the earth is not waterlogged. With a little bit of care they flower their hearts out until the frosts arrive. They appreciate a feed, especially if grown in a pot, and need to be deadheaded to keep the flowers coming. There can be some confusion identifying the spent flowers but there is a clear difference. The buds are squat and round, like tangerines (on left in photograph below), whilst the spent flowers are conical (right in photo below) and if you squeeze them water comes out. As the petals fall they stick themselves to the leaves below and look messy – another reason to keep on top of the deadheading. All parts of a dahlia are edible and a sprinkling of petals adds colour to a plate of food.

Bulbs are beginning to appear for sale. Apart from tulips they can all be planted as soon as they arrive while they are plump firm and fresh. It’s best to plant them before you apply an autumn mulch so they go into the soil at the correct depth.