Written by Alison Levey – award winning Garden blogger
I always think that the garden in September is one of my favourite times and the late summer colour is always treasured. As the season turns there’s a moment of slow, calm, peaceful transition from the heat and colour of summer into the calmer, quieter winter months.
A mainstay of my informal cottage garden style border is the Japanese Anenome. It is so grateful and rightly also called ‘windflower’ as it moves so well in the soft September breezes. I planted one in my garden some years ago now and it is so easy to divide I now have several repeating nicely through the borders.
I would be negligent not to mention asters as a staple of the September garden. I tend to grow the taller ones as I like the height, but I also grow Aster frikartii monch, which is one of those ‘if you grow only one aster, this is the one’ in my opinion. Around 40 cm high, flowers for several weeks and is a bright and cheery bluey/mauve and it plays nicely with others in the border.
The Veronia, or ‘ironweed’ is a fantastic member of the aster family. It grows to around 6 feet tall but does not spread out so works well even in a small space. The flowers resemble an aster and similarly to asters it is beloved of pollinators. I must have had one in my garden for a good six or seven years now and I think it is very garden worthy.
I like to divide perennial plants in September and early autumn as I find they settle in well whilst the soil is still warm and then are ready to thrive once the warmth returns in the spring. I talked about repetition above and divisions as such a good and cost effective way of creating repetition. Repeating different plants with different moments of flowering and different structures is a good way of creating rhythm and interest. This time of year is when I start to really appreciate the sedums I have planted throughout my cottage garden borders. They flower late and are very good for pollinators. I now have ten or eleven of these plants, all started from one cutting I was given some years ago. Sedums root incredibly easily in a glass of water so why buy when you do not need to?
I am also to be found collecting seeds this time of year; I will be wandering around the garden clutching small brown paper bags, snipping off the seed heads into the bags ready to store once with have completely dried out. You do not have to use brown paper bags, old envelopes are just as good but having them the same shape and size does help me store and then use them more easily.
September is also the time for planning and what I find invaluable for this task is that I keep a garden journal all year round. Every time I do anything in the garden or notice something emerging, flowering, I make a note of it in my journal. It is a fantastic resource for seeing what really is early/late and remembering what I did when. I also note down my ideas in the garden for what I want to do better or more of next year. I note when I sow/plant something, when it flowers and also if it is worth planting again. September is when I find myself pacing the garden thinking what projects might I want to start over the winter. Autumn is an excellent time for creating new borders/areas for planting. I usually identify the space, prep it and dig it over in autumn and let the winter and spring frosts break down the soil so that it is in a good state for planting in the next year.
So whilst the year feels like it might be winding down, for the cottage garden it is a time of thinking about refresh and renewal and rejoice at the beauty.