FLOWER POWER: Jackie Power

(08 October, 2015) Editorials

"Rain and blustery winds are usually a feature of the October weather."

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Rain and blustery winds are usually a feature of the October weather.

But, there are often fine and mild spells when the autumn sun can feel warm.

The planting season for shrubs and trees starts in October and lasts until March. Although five months seems like plenty of time, the ground can become waterlogged or frozen as winter sets in, making conditions difficult from November onwards. There is usually a better choice of shrubs available from suppliers at the beginning of the season. Whilst planning new additions to the garden or window box, something more modest to consider growing is the Snakes Head Fritillary. This spring flowering bulb has lantern like blooms of white or pinkish-purple which are attractive and unusual.

With shortening day-light hours and the onset of worsening weather, opportunities for working in the garden are becoming limited. Make the most of any fine days – tidy and cut back perennials; continue weeding beds and loosening compacted soil, this will  expose the larvae of moths, beetles and slugs/snails to the birds who feed on them (useful for pest control next season). Clear leaves regularly, if they are left around on grass it will turn yellow.

The main seasonal colour is from berries such as rosehips and hawthorn plus the garden shrubs Cotoneaster and Pyracantha which are laden with bright orange-red berries (not edible). The leaves are turning into rich autumn colours of buttery yellow, bronze and flaming red. Michaelmas Daisies and Dahlias will continue flowering whilst the weather stays dry and mild.

October is traditionally ‘apple month’ and festivals have been re-established around the country. Apple Day in Borough Market will be on Sunday 25th October from 12pm until 4pm. Check details at http://boroughmarket.org.uk/apple-day-25th-october-2015

My plant of the month is the Hop (Humulus lupulus). Rarely found in gardens, it is a vigorous climber, tolerant of a range of growing conditions, attracts butterflies and provides habitat for wild birds. Hop flowers resemble little soft green fir cones, they form large bunches on long tendrils (binds). Hops are cultivated commercially and used as a bitter flavouring and preservative in the production of beer. The leaves are slightly aromatic; the flower heads have an interesting herby smell.

Hops have a long tradition of use in herbal medicine, when employed (with other herbs) they can be helpful in treating a wide range of conditions including anxiety, insomnia and digestive disorders. (Caution: always seek the advice of a professional Herbalist before using herbs/plants medicinally).

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