October in the Blackberry Garden

Written by Alison Levey – award winning Garden blogger

It has been a long dry summer here at the Blackberry Garden and after some warm final days of the month we enter October with mists and rain returning. October is a time of berries and autumn colour. The perennial borders start to waiver leaving the spent flower heads creating hibernation points for insects and structure to keep interest in the long dark winter months ahead.

The perennial sunflowers, who are a complex mix of more joy that you imagine and total thuggery, are still flowering well. As they start to die down into their winter-stickery I will edit out the surplus as much as I can. When the soil is pliable, they are quite easy to pull out root and all and it is quite a therapeutic task on a mild autumnal day.

October is a good month for planting out perennials, shrubs and trees. The soil is still warm enough to welcome them into their new positions and they should settle down nicely to sleep until spring arrives. I did not have many shrubs in my borders at first. I saw them as taking up too much precious space I could plant more perennials in. This led to a bit of a flat experience especially over the winter months so slowly and surely shrubs have been added to give a variety of shapes and heights. I am very fond of my Heptacodium miconiodes, bought six or so years ago and it is now developing into a fine tall shrub. So tall I do now prune it back to a reasonable height. It deserves a garden place as it flowers late in summer, has wonderful scent which are then followed by berries. Until it flowers it might not be the most interesting of shrubs but it does make a nice green backdrop.

Another border shrub is my Sambucus nigra, it sits rather quietly at the back of my Conservatory Border, it too can spread out quite largely but responds well to harsh pruning in spring. I tend to wait until I can see where the new shoots are breaking through the stems and then prune to just above a set at the height I want.

October is also a wonderful month for just standing in the garden and inhaling the scents of the garden. Not just the scents of the perfume plants, but the scents of damp soil, that sluggy smell all to the backdrop of the later pollinators buzzing to find the last of the pollens. Yet through all this dozy comfortableness it is the time to be planting out our spring flowering bulbs. A little early still for tulips but daffodils and crocii and snowdrops (if you do not buy these in the green). I plant lots of spring bulbs into my lawn, there are few days I enjoy more than when I am gentling tossing the bulbs onto the ground to plant them where they fall. This is meant to give a natural look to where they emerge and it certainly seems to work for me.

So enjoy your gardens in October, as ever there is still much to be done.

Alison Levey


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