Gardening club author, Anne Swithinbank, talks us through how to care for daffodils, potatoes and camellias. Photographs kindly provided by John Swithinbank. To subscribe to the Gardening Club, please click here.
Working in the autumn garden is one of life’s pleasures and on a golden day the prospect of gathering in a harvest of pumpkins, finishing bulb planting and tidying lawn edges draws like a magnet.
There is still an abundance of growth and in the right russet garb, a gardener is usefully camouflaged against the background of strawy seedheads and fading crops. I often find myself felted with twigs and leaves, muddy at knee, ruddy of face, damp of hem, faintly redolent of leaf mould and ready to identify with Hardy’s description of Giles Winterborne’s The Woodlanders; “He looked and smelt like autumn’s very brother, his face being sunburnt to wheat-colour, his eyes blue as corn-flowers, his sleeves and leggings dyed with fruit-stains, his hands clammy with the sweet juice of apples, his hat sprinkled with pips, and everywhere about him the sweet atmosphere of cider which at its first return each season has such an indescribable fascination for those who have been born and bred among the orchards.” No wonder Grace’s senses “revelled in the sudden lapse back to nature unadorned”. Perhaps this is what we all need. While aesthetically there is a desire to clear and tidy, be sure to leave plenty of stems and undisturbed cover in place for wildlife. Hedges clipped in late summer and early autumn, neat lawn edges and swept pathways will accentuate the bones of your garden, wherein growth can continue to billow, providing refuge and food until February. We deserve a fabulous backdrop for our efforts. So plant trees and shrubs for autumn tints, perhaps choosing unusual yellowwood, also known as Virgilia (Cladrastis Kentukea), from the USA. This favours well-drained soil and delivers a subtle show of yellow leaf tints, and in late spring it dangles stems of fragrant, white, wisteria-like flowers. Tall grasses like Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Roland’ and fruits from crab apples and spindles (those of Euonymus Europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ are particularly brazen) complete the show.