We are normally waiting for September to bring us some much needed rains but, at the time of writing, we have had an unusually wet July and a fairly wet start to August.
Nonetheless, for the vast majority of shrubs and perennials the autumn is the best time to plant – there is warmth and moisture in the soil, the plant starts to develop roots before the cold of winter, and in mild winters may keep growing during the winter thus producing a more established plant – better able to withstand dry winds and heat next summer.
In general the autumn planting season can start once we have had September rain, and can extend until early December. Remember that when planting it is a good idea to dig a hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the pot, take this soil out and mix some of it with terreau de plantation or compost (organic material) and clean sand or gravel, use this mixture to give your plant a better start in life! Before planting fill the planting hole with water and allow it to drain away several times, this will ensue that there is moisture at depth for the roots to seek out. Whenever possible plant small plants rather than large specimens, they are less susceptible to wind rock, will establish faster and long term will result in healthier plants.
If you haven’t yet done so, now is the time to buy spring flowering bulbs from garden centres (jardineries) or by mail order, there are many online sources. I have found that anemones (De Caen hybrids and Anemone blanda), native Gladiolus communis and Scilla peruviana (which is a Med native despite the name) do well. Botanical or species tulips such as Tulipa greigii, kaufmaniana, saxatilis & fosteriana are particularly successful here as well as other Med natives such as grape hyacinths and Star of Bethlehem. When buying bulbs make sure that what’s in the packet are firm, healthy looking bulbs with no signs of premature sprouting.
During September think also about the following tasks:
* continue to deadhead perennials to prolong the autumn show of flower;
* take cuttings of tender perennials such as geraniums (Pelargoniums, strictly speaking);
* prune late summer flowering shrubs after flowering;
* trim evergreen hedges;
* clip back lavenders after flowering – use hand shears and clip back to just above the old flowering stem, don’t cut back into old wood as the plant may not reshoot.
Many Mediterranean native plants flower earlier in the year but there are many species of Origanum that flower through the summer into September. The popular cooking herb, oregano, is Origanum vulgare but many species are very ornamental. For example; Origanum dictamnus has woolly, silvery leaves with pink flowers & purple bracts, another good ornamental is Origanum Kent Beauty with beautiful, large pink bracts around mauve flowers.
There are many forms of Origanum laevigatum which are most attractive too; Herrenhausen is a deep purple form and Nymphenbug is a lovely compact cultivar. And, for fans of Middle Eastern cooking, don’t forget the white flowered Origanum syriacum which is the main constituent of the zatar spice mix. And, if you want more convincing to try some oreganos, remember that they are all extremely attractive to bees and butterflies.
The pictures shown are: Origanum laevigatum Nyphenburg, Origanum syriacum, Origanum dictamnus and Origanum rotundifolia Kent Beauty
Click here to find out about La Petite Pépinière two day gardening course this autumn.