Sophie Simpson of Sophie Simpson Garden Design works with gardens of all sizes adding beauty, style and exclusivity to rural acres and small urban plots alike. Using a wide range of plants, Sophie has a wealth of knowledge on adding colour and extending the life-time of your garden blooms. So with Autumn upon us we discovered the methods you should be using to prolong your plants into the colder months
Can we encourage our flowers to last into autumn?
At this time of year we should be deadheading, to prolong the flowering of late summer herbaceous perennials and roses. Many are under the impression that once July has passed there’ll be no flowering. This is simply because most of us let the plant go to seed, rather than encouraging it to produce more flowers. There are so many plants that will benefit from being deadheaded or cut back and nearly all will flower after the first June flush.
How do we do it?
By shearing old foliage and spent flowers off plants such as Alchemilla mollis, hardy geraniums, Geums, Astrantia and Nepeta. These are all clump forming plants and when cut back to the base after the first flush of flowers will produce new leaves and, quite often, new flowers which will then last a few more weeks. This also helps to reduce the amount of self-seeding which can sometimes cause problems, particularly with Alchemilla which can end up everywhere.
Deadheading can be done on plants that flower on long stems rather than in clumps. These typically include Phlox paniculata, Dahlias, tall Salvias such as S. ‘Amistad’, Knautia macedonica, Campanulas, Verbena, Buddleias and roses, where the flowers are produced on shoots which come from a leaf joint. This method is very simple – just wait for the flower to fade and snip off at the next joint. Sometimes three shoots might be produced from the same leaf joint so if that is the case, snip off each spent shoot in turn until all three are over, then take the stem back to the next leaf. This way, your plants could flower into October or November without any loss of vigour.
Which other plants should we be tending to in Autumn?
Now is a good time of year to trim your evergreen hedges and lavender plants. The best method for keeping lavender in good shape for many years is to wait until all their flowers have gone grey (this means that the seed is almost set) and cut to just above a tiny, silvery leaf shoot just below the point where new green wood becomes the old brown wood. It is easy to see when you part the stems and look into the base of the plant. Be careful not to cut back further than this into old wood if there are no new shoots showing, or the plant may not survive. You can then begin to shape them into neat and shorn mounds and they will grow tight for many years to come without being woody and leggy.