Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Jack Ogg
Gardening Correspondent
1:02 AM 23rd September 2023

Autumn Is On Its Way…

…the air definitely has a chill to it and the nights are drawing in and I now don’t have to convince my four-year-old that it is time for bed when the time comes!

As the leaves start turning colour in the garden and plants start to think about closing down for the winter rest, now is a perfect time to start collecting the seeds of all the flowers you have enjoyed through the summer. As I have suggested a number of times, keep up with the deadheading to prolong flowering for as long as possible, but you might want to think about leaving one of those spent flowers to develop into a seed head to create lots of free plants for next year.

This time of year sees us doing lots of different jobs at York Gate, including cutting the wildflower meadow and collecting the seeds. We’ll also now start adding 600 mixed botanical crocus and some extra Tulipa sylvestris to increase the display. In the open dry areas, we will add Allium sphaerocephalon and Nectaroscordum siculum under the big beech tree.

It’s also the time for hollow tining the lawns in the garden to aerate them to relieve compaction. We hire in a specialised machine for this job, but in your own garden, a garden fork would work just as well. You can then brush a lawn sand or an autumn weed and feed into the holes.

Coleus barbatus cutting
Coleus barbatus cutting
Another very important job that we have been busy with is taking cuttings of all the tender plants such as Plectranthus, Impatiens and Pilea. We do this for several reasons:

1. If we take cuttings now from these plants, we’re not having to store the full-sized plants through the winter; a 9cm pot takes up less space than a 3 litre one!
2. We can check the cuttings over so we're not introducing any pests or diseases into the greenhouse.
3. The display in the garden isn’t spoilt in any way as taking a few cuttings from established plants in the beds and borders is barely noticed.
4. And finally, it helps us to ensure the longevity of the plants, should an unexpected early frost damage these tender plants.

Holly with reverted stems
Holly with reverted stems
A major task that I’ve been putting off is getting into the giant ‘Silver Milkmaid’ holly at the end of the canal to remove the reverted stems and branches. ‘Silver Milkmaid’ has a wonderful silver white variegation to its leaves but occasionally it throws out plain green vigorous stems that grow much faster and stronger, so they need removing before they take over the whole bush. The downside is that this variety is no less spiky than a normal holly, so climbing up inside it can be a painful process.

As for your own garden, autumn is a time of plenty.

Plenty of courgettes! Have you ever grown courgettes?
If so, you know that it is probably going to produce more fruit than you could ever eat! But also fruits from all your edible plants – our sweetcorn has been wonderful this year and it has been a great year for crab apples too.

You might want to start checking through all your winter protection for tender and half-hardy plants. I have already had all the tree fern jackets out of the box to check they are all there and still in one piece. I have also been making sure I’ve got enough fleece and straw to protect the Musa.

It is also worth plugging in and testing your greenhouse heaters before it becomes necessary to use them and you find they are not working.

A tip I have found really helps me is to wander round the garden and take pictures and/or videos of the beds and borders now, so by the time spring comes around you have a bit of reference. Too many years I have told myself I’ll remember where that bulb is or what that perennial is when it’s cut down, then by the time spring comes I have no idea what is where. This can really help you plan additional plants and displays.

York Gate is one of Perennial’s gardens which has been generously gifted to the only UK charity that helps anyone working with plants, trees, flowers or grass.

When you visit, you’re not just enjoying the scenery, you’re part of a lifeline. With the funds we raise through our gardens, those in need can bloom again.

York Gate is a magical one-acre garden created by the Spencer family between 1951 and 1994. Frederick and Sybil Spencer along with their son Robin, laid out and nurtured what is now one of the finest small gardens in the country. The design of ‘rooms’ interlinked through a succession of vistas and executed with meticulous attention to detail owed much to the Arts and Crafts movement, complemented by Sybil’s skills as a plantswoman. In accordance with Sybil’s wishes, on her death in 1994, York Gate was given to Perennial.

Back Church Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS16 8DW, UK
2023 Opening Times:
Wednesday – Sunday 10am-4pm
Open Bank Holidays
We close for the season on Sunday 29 October.
More info here