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Down to Earth: Why September is time to take stock in the garden

“The weather will always be unpredictable, but you and your garden can embrace the change.” In the wake of fickle summer weather, September is the time to take stock, says Cambridge designer Robert Barker

September is time to take stock in the garden
September is time to take stock in the garden

In previous September editions of this wonderful magazine, I have discussed at length the effects that a long summer can have on our gardens and there is a reason for this repetitive thought. No, not because I am drastically ageing and therefore repeating myself (although if you ask my children, they will say that I am guilty of this on a daily basis), but because it is really important.

The last two previous summers were particularly hot, and on certain days the heat reached record-breaking levels, but this year - at least at the time of writing this article - the weather has almost been the complete opposite. The negative effect of this is that some plants have grown leggy and others, certain sun-loving varieties, look damp and miserable - but the positives are that most gardens don’t have that tired ‘drained from enduring the heat’ look and lawns look lush and vibrant green.

This is why I harp on so much about September being such an important time to pause, take stock and evaluate what state your garden is in. In my own garden I experiment a lot with plants, as it wouldn’t be appropriate to try out new varieties on my clients, so I like using this time to see how things have fared.

On the whole, everything has done really well. In particular, the majority of plants that suffered from the extreme winter that we had have bounced back and are already halfway to being at their original size. Plants such as Fuchsia, Euphorbia and Pittosporum all took a knock from the winter, but the moderate summer temperatures, mixed with days of rain, have done them the world of good.

Plants and humans alike, anything can outgrow a particular space, so September is the perfect time to move evergreen shrubs. There is absolutely no shame in moving something that you previously thought was in the perfect spot to a new location. This can be sometimes daunting and considered bold, but moving an evergreen shrub into a new position so that it has more room to breathe is a smart way to think about garden design.

September is also an excellent time to divide overgrown perennials. Plants such as Geraniums and the majority of grasses, pictured, will have loved the summer rain; by dividing them you will be able to fill gaps, make your garden look fuller and leftovers can be something nice to pass onto friends, family and neighbours.

The weather will always be unpredictable, but you and your garden can embrace the change.

* See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

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