Thursday 22 March 2018

Gardening with Diarmuid Gavin: a time to plant

Make the most of soft autumn days to plant these showstoppers which will wow you next spring

Nerine bowdenii
Nerine bowdenii
Autumn is the optimum time to plan next year's planting

Diarmuid Gavin

Autumn can be a wonderful time to add to your plant collection. There's a real joy in continuing to be creative, in dreaming about how a new specimen could look in a particular space and establishing it in your beds or borders when so much other garden work at the moment revolves around cutting things back, composting and decay.

So, while it's still pleasant ­gardening weather, let's consider sourcing and ­planting. Right now, our garden soil is still warm, allowing roots to establish underground before the winter cold halts growth. And, as there's plenty of moisture around, plants aren't under much stress - one good watering may be enough to settle a plant into its new home.

Pests and diseases are also not much of an issue at the moment and there's good value to be had as garden centres and nurseries are keen to clear stock before the season of poinsettia Christmas grottos and twinkling lights.

However, when planting at this time of the year, don't add any instant fertiliser to the planting hole. Anything which feeds the plant now may just encourage soft green shoots way too early in the new year which will be susceptible to being blackened or worse by frost. Slow release feeds such as bone meal or well-rotted farmyard manure are a better option - they will provide roots and shoots with energy during the next growing season in spring.

So what to plant? After taking some time to consider how I can add to an ever-evolving garden, I've made a wish list of wonders to add to your garden.

If you are quick off the mark this morning, these plants and other horticultural beauties are available at a plant sale organised by the Irish Garden Plant Society which takes place from noon until 2pm at the Trinity College Botanic Gardens, Palmerston Park, Dartry, Dublin 6. Admission is free and all are welcome.

They may also be sourced from garden outlets which specialise in some rare and unusual offerings, places such as Kilmurry Nursery, Gorey, Co Wexford; Mount Venus Nursery, The Walled Garden, Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham; Murphy and Woods garden centre, Johnstown Road, Dún Laoghaire; and Rare Plants Ireland which you will find at

1 Strobilanthes attenuata

To add some intense violet to your late summer borders, this hardy perennial from the Himalayas will produce lots of flowers over an extended period. Curved deep blue tubular flowers on top of hairy stems will attract pollinators and admiring queries from keen gardeners. Grow in sun or partial shade.

2 Maiden hair creeper (Muehlenbeckia complexa)

A vigorous deciduous climber with small dark green leaves. Left to its own devices, it will form mats of ground cover with its wiry stems - in its native New Zealand it is found covering sand dunes - but can also be trained over fences and trellis to form a green hedge. Excellent in coastal situations due to its tolerance of salt-laden winds.

3 Persicaria Red Dragon

A fantastic foliage plant, this makes for an unusual ground ­cover. It has pointed leaves with ­distinctive silver and green chevron markings on a plum background. Like most ­knotweeds, it is vigorous but not as invasive as its ­relatives. If you don't want to spread, keep it in a container but don't let it dry out as it prefers moist soil.

4 Nerine bowdenii

These South African bulbs give an unexpected burst of sugar pink in autumn gardens. Once planted in the right place, they need little attention and will multiply happily. Ideally plant in free-draining soil at the base of a warm, south-facing wall where they can bake in summer and be sheltered during the winter.

5 Orange libertia (Libertia peregrinans)

The lovely poetic common name for this plant is 'wandering Chilean iris'. It does wander and spread a bit but it's not from Chile - it's another New Zealand native. Like other members of the iris family, it has stiff fan like evergreen foliage and this becomes quite orange in autumn/winter. Late spring and summer delivers cup-like white blooms making this an all-year-round performer.

This week in  the garden:

● Replant summer containers with winter bedding plants such as violas, bellis, primulas and of course spring bulbs

● Autumn is an excellent time to plant clematis

● To ensure as neat a look as possible for your lawn through winter, pick a dry day, clear it of leaves and debris and give it its last cut

● In the veg garden, finish picking beans but leave a few pods to ripen. Harvest root veg such as carrot and beetroot

● It’s a good time to order new fruit trees and soft fruit bushes from the garden centre

● October is a good time to  move shrubs, young trees and to  plants hedges.

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