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Garden News: Garden Club - Down to Earth

It’s worth thinking ahead to spring, but do take a moment to appreciate autumn’s glory, writes Cambridge garden designer Robert Barker

For those of you that are frequent readers of my column, I think it is fair to say that I am guilty of harping on about the importance of living in the moment. Now that autumn is here, it is vital to make the most of each moment before winter descends - and it’s also an important time to plan for next spring.

The urgency for planning ahead comes in the shape of a bulb (or corm depending upon your personal preference): now is the time to plant these strange-looking bulbous forms so that, come spring, your gardens will be awash with colour while the rest of the plants slowly wake up.

In my clients’ gardens I like to plant bulbs enmasse for maximum effect. Bulbs such as Tulipa ‘Shirley’ combined with Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’ is a particular favorite, but something as simple as Narcissus ‘Thalia’, a white daffodil, can’t help but lift your spirits.

Colorful maple leaf in autumn. (16267089)
Colorful maple leaf in autumn. (16267089)

You don’t have to have a large garden or area to plant bulbs however. Bulbs in pots work really well, although will probably need replacing each year. Every year I get my two little baby Barkers to pot up a bulb of their own in a pot each. I will never forget that first time, when they delicately placed the bulb into their pots, holding them like they were a precious stone and then carefully covering them with soil.

Of course the weekly question “Has it grown yet?” then followed. When my daughter’s bulb sprouted a green leaf she actually drew in breath with excitement - and when the bulb burst into flower they both screamed with joy. I hold onto these memories tightly and make the most of each year when they want to repeat the process, as soon the excitement of planting a garden bulb will be long lost and replaced with clichéd teenage antics.

Autumn isn’t all about planning though, and the spectacle of the turning leaves on the trees is now at its peak. It is an incredible time to appreciate the changing of the seasons in a celebration of yellows, reds, oranges and browns that cover our streets, villages, towns and cities.

As I say, one of the keys to life is living in the moment, so enjoy everything that autumn brings. I don’t see the harm in a bit of planning here and there, though, especially planning for next spring when you and your garden will need a jolt of joy the most.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

October’s Jobs

As your summer baskets and patio pots fade, turf the past-it plants onto the compost heap and replace them with autumn/winter interest. Think evergreens, like trailing ivies; all-weather flowers, like pansies and heathers; and early-rising bulbs, such as crocus and dwarf iris.

Now’s the time to give strawberry plants some TLC. To help them retain their vigour – and ensure another healthy crop come Wimbledon - strip discoloured leaves and snip off any runners, too.

It’s a dull and painfully repetitive task – one puff of wind and you’re back where you started - but fail to rake fallen leaves from your borders and rot will surely set in. Save your plants from a soggy end and sweep leaves into a bin bag pricked with ventilation holes; before you know it, you’ll have a sack of homemade leaf mould.

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