Prepare the containers for winter
The weather may have changed, but now is the time to prepare permanently planted containers for the winter.
Shrubs or large plants in outdoor pots are very vulnerable in the fall. Excessive rains, gales, and heavy frosts can all take their toll.
You can keep all container plants healthy by taking a few precautions in a timely manner. Good drainage is essential, so start by making sure that any permanently planted containers drip freely.
UK gardening expert Nigel Colborn advises avid gardeners to prepare their outdoor spaces for the colder winter months and pay special attention to shrubs or large plants in outdoor pots
Drainage is always better if the containers are raised slightly from the ground. Place large pots on bricks, old quarry tiles or specially designed “ risers ”.
This allows water to flow faster and more freely from the containers.
Feeding is not necessary in winter and can even be harmful.
Winter and spring shrubs such as daphnes and camellias (pictured) draw on nutrients stored in their tissues for flowering. They won’t need food until they start growing next spring.
Ants and earthworms are always less likely to block drainage holes if there is space between the base of the pot and the ground. Nonetheless, check all drainage holes and remove any plugs of soil or potting soil that may have blocked them.
Small containers may penetrate the frost. You can reduce this risk by bringing them closer together. Put more vulnerable plants in the center of the group.
The roots of subtropical plants such as cannas and ginger lilies should be completely frost-free.
But if their top growth is frozen, then no permanent harm is done. To protect these plants, insulate the pots with bubble wrap, tightly tied to prevent wind damage.
When life gives you leaves …
The dead leaves are full of plant nutrients. To turn them into leafy mussels and use them as a soil amendment, wrap the wet leaves in large plastic bags.
As fall arrives and leaves begin to fall from the trees, Nigel suggests gardeners could use them by converting them to leafy mussels for use as a soil amendment.
After two to three months, shake the leaves to remix them. The leaves should decompose to crumbly mold after about six months.
Give the hedges a final cut
The hedge trimming season is over, but your hedge could benefit from a final hedge cut. Conifers such as yew and holly can produce new shoots. Cut for a clean finish for the winter.
Privet hedges might require a more complete clip. If you notice dieback, cut off the affected stems. Throw away quickly.
Although the hedge cutting season is no longer upon us, Nigel suggests that the garden could benefit greatly from a last cut before winter.
I was about to chop my Buddleja bush recently when my neighbor told me it was best to prune them in the spring. Why is that? J Saunders.
Buddlejas are best if they are pruned hard. In response, they produce large, fast growing shoots that bear a lot of flowers. These are valuable for pollinating insects, especially butterflies.
A reader wanted to know if their neighbor was correct in suggesting that the best time to cut buddlejas was in the spring, and Nigel told them that the ultimate time of year for a cut is at the end of April.
February is the best month for pruning. By then the weather warms up, and by the time the young shoots will be most vulnerable, spring will have arrived.
If you have multiple buddlejas, leave one until the end of April, then cut it hard.
The flowers provide late nectar to peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies to stock up on hibernation.
Plant of the week: CYCLAMEN CILICIUM
From the mountains of southern Turkey comes one of the most beautiful cyclamen in the fall.
Arriving later than the more well-known Cyclamen hederifolium, this plant produces flowers and leaves together in October.
For this week’s plant of the week, Nigel opted for cyclamen cilicium, a robust pale pink flower with elegant blossoms swept back
The elegant swept back blossoms are pale pink, matching the silvery gray leaves.
Although completely hardy, C. cilicium is less hardy than the widely distributed C. hederifolium. A sheltered position is preferable, preferably in dappled shade.
You can also grow C. cilicium in a large alpine pot or large pot. Growing plants are available from specialty vendors such as ashwoodnurseries.com.