Quick garden design tips to do in September and October for a better garden next summer.
Here are a few ideas for things to do now, in order to improve your garden next year. I’ve tried to focus on ideas which mainly are quick and easy, don’t require a lot of time or cost and can be done in virtually any garden.
1. Sow seeds of hardy annuals.
Rather than wait until next year, get hardy annuals off to a head start by sowing them now. This is a cheap and easy way to plug gaps and experiment with different plant combinations. An autumn sowing will result in earlier flowering, and larger plants than a spring sowing. It also means that when everything kicks off in spring and there are any number of gardening tasks to do, you’ll have one less to worry about.
Above: Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ is one of many hardy annuals which can be autumn sown
2. Plant spring flowering bulbs
Its a bit too early to plant Tulips – wait until after a hard frost to reduce the chance of Tulip fire wiping them out – but many other bulbs can be planted now. (It’s not a bad idea to order Tulips now and store them for a while though, many of the most desirable varieties sell out by November.) Even if you already have many bulbs in your garden, plant some more. A mix of Alliums, Camassia, Snowdrops, Narcissi and Tulips will make a real difference from the beginning of the year right into summer. The plants can be very long lived, bulbs are very cost effective, and many will multiply over the coming years. Peter Nyssen are a good supplier (www.peternyssen.com) and you can find selections for any situation; sun, shade, dry and wet. Be more generous with their numbers than you might think for the best effect. I read some advice last year which I thought was good: “Don’t overthink it, just stuff in as many as you can.”
Above: create a woodland feel by planting Anemone nemorosa around deciduous trees and shrubs.
3. Make notes and take photos
This might sound I’m suggesting to take it all a bit too seriously, but, a it’s a really quick and easy way to make sure you don’t forget any ideas you might have. Ideas for new plant combinations, things that didn’t work well, plants you spot in magazines you might want to include somewhere – write them down. Take a few photos of your garden at different stages and it’s easier to then look back at what worked and what didn’t, and it’s also easier to assess why.
Above: One option for a garden notebook. Don’t know why it has pink flamingos on it though, and the pen looks too expensive to risk losing in the garden.
4. Divide and/or move perennials.
Later flowering perennials may be best left until Spring to be moved (Heleniums in particular may not bounce back if moved in Autumn), but otherwise, now is a good time to perform this task for herbaceous perennials which have finished flowering. The RHS has some good advice as to how to go about dividing perennials here www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=363 . You get free plants, you can change the look of the garden whilst you can still see what worked and what didn’t, and the plants themselves will be reinvigorated. There’s still enough warmth in the soil to spur on root growth, so they’ll romp away come next year. (NB. if you have particularly waterlogged soil, or the weather is very wet, it could be best to leave dividing or moving plants until spring to be on the safe side)
Above: Monardas can spread quite quickly, but die out in the middle of the clump. Dividing them can keep them where you want them, and improves their look by getting rid of the hollow centre.
5. Hire a Garden Designer
Ok, so this is slightly tongue in cheek, but if you aren’t sure how to get the garden looking exactly how you want, now is a great time to consider hiring a Garden Designer. They can accompany you in your garden and see exactly what you are happy with, and unhappy with, and it’s easier to identify the current range of plants in the garden. It also gives you plenty of time to get the design work done, and then line up contractors to do the work. Depending on the size of scale of the job, and availability of your chosen contractors, this could mean it will all be ready for you to enjoy by the time summer comes round again.
Above: One of my garden design sketches. This was for a large garden in Leeds which was going to used as part of a house conversion to holiday homes.
Lewis Williams Gardens. Garden Designer based in Bradford covering Bradford, Bingley, Leeds, Wakefield, Halifax and beyond.