September:ch-ch-ch-changes!

It may seem a bit odd to be doing this now, but September is a great month for planning next year's garden. 

We are entering the prime time for lifting, dividing and replanting herbaceous plants. As a general rule, when autumn sets in, it will be the turn of most shrubs to be moved and planted, followed by trees in the winter.

So if there are parts of your garden where you see jarring colour combinations or areas that are downright boring, now is the time to have a rethink.

Here are a few principles that can help you to plan your borders or growing areas.

  • Aim for contrasting shapes and textures so that the plants show each other off.
  • Evergreens can give structure: these can be hedges, single 'statement' plants or if you have a large garden, planting groups of evergreens to give screening and interest.
  • Punctuating borders with tall herbaceous plants will add drama. A current favourite is the tall, swaying grass Stipa gigantea but Delphinium, Verbascum and Macleaya will all grab the eye
  • Try to have continual all-year round interest particularly in patches that you can see from the house in winter. Evergreen shrubs such as Mahonia, Viburnum tinus and the deciduous Viburnum fragrans are a few of the safe bets as well as the herbaceous Hellebores. 
  • Climbing plants can really soften the appearance of buildings, including those garish, brand-new sheds. Running roses up trees, trellis and fencing can often produce a romantic effect, but be discerning when you buy your climber. You are entering the world of Jack and The Beanstalk if you plant rambling rather than climbing roses and the common name of Polygonum (Mile-a-Minute) might give you a clue as to what you will be up against there. 
  • Unloved but sunny corners can be marvellous places for sowing an annual wildflower meadow. You will need to work clearing out the competition right up to the sowing of the seeds in late spring after the frosts, but the beauty of an annual wildflower meadow is that it thrives on poor soil and needs little intervention. ( I will be returning to this topic in the spring). I am still enjoying my bee-attracting patch and will do for at least another month.

I am frequently amazed at how well 'unplanned' plant combinations work so well. All sorts of unwanted plants come my way when a garden design is being implemented and the residents of the communal area where I live are only too pleased to see them.

It is wonderful to see an unpromising bunch of muddy roots grow into the most surprisingly beautiful blend of colours and textures. Before long they will be attracting the birds and the bees.

But I won't go there now: that's another story.