Spring is often the time people most savour to get out into the garden, although autumn can also be a terrific time to harvest or to plant new flowers, vegetables or trees. Kelly Beauchamp, owner-manager of Tate’s Nursery in Forster, talks autumn magic…
What’s special about autumn to you?
Autumn is my most favourite time … Generally the weather is at its most consistent, and plants enjoy the relief from summer’s sun. Autumn can be a very productive time in the garden … from cultivating new garden beds and making the most of the last fertilising opportunity before winter, plus pruning, mulching and of course, the best part – planting. Autumn is a gentle season, and planting at this time allows plants to thrive and be ready to take off when the ground warms in spring.
It is also the season to think big and plan new sections of garden, mulch down beds for the winter after fertilising, or establish new plantings. Small tasks like filling pots with spring flowering bulbs, or adding new season vegies and herbs to the garden and mass planting pansies and violas are other ways of being active in the garden in autumn.
What types of plants and flowers can be planted in autumn?
The autumn vegie garden is generally very productive and quite foolproof. If people have experienced trouble keeping grubs and caterpillars out of their garden, the good news is that the cooler nights will see an end of these hungry little pests. And the end of the humid summer months means the end of most fungal problems. Definite crops to be included are broccoli, broccolini, cabbage, kale, peas, spinach, cauliflower, beetroot and Brussels sprouts.
As far as flowers are concerned, there is a large variety of choice. Bedding flowers include pansies, violas, poppies, stock, primula and snapdragons. Plant these varieties in autumn, and reap the rewards with months and months of flowering (they are also great for filling pockets of your garden). We must not forget sweet peas – for fantastic results, after enriching soil, sweet pea seeds should be sown around St Patrick’s Day.
Autumn is the only time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Buying early ensures top quality bulbs (store them away in a cool position until you are ready to plant – I find April is the best time). Some cool climate bulbs can be stored in the crisper section of the fridge for a week or so before planting.
Make sure the bed they’ll be planted in has been well prepared by adding blood and bone or composted cow manure. Freesias, daffodils, Dutch iris, jonquils, tulips are all spring flowering bulbs to be considered.
Are there any particular species of flowers you’re looking forward to seeing bloom over autumn this year?
I always enjoy the onset of camellia season, from the early flowering sasanquas to the late winter japonica varieties. These would have to be one of the hardiest of plants.
Camellias can be used in the garden in so many ways – from stand-alone specimens, to gorgeous pot plantings and also for screening or hedging purposes. Varieties to look out for include Baby Bear, Buttons and Bows, Fairy Wand, Blood of China and Baby Jane.
There is a position for a camellia in most gardens. There are varieties that will perform in the full hot sun right through to deep shade … from dainty, single flowers that hang like lanterns to big and bold jumbo-sized blooms. My only word of warning: camellias don’t like dynamic lifter or chicken manure – don’t be tempted!
Are there any new garden trends evolving in 2012?
We are seeing a shift in planting to include a lot more colour. While coloured foliage is something people have always been drawn to, it seems to be that we are being attracted back to using more flowering plants in the garden. It is important to point out that there is a general misconception that a flowering garden needs a much bigger commitment by the gardener, but it doesn’t need to be this way at all. With careful selection, you can have a very hardy collection of plants that will offer you colour all year round.
The marketplace exploded with DIY landscape architecture in recent years. Is the somewhat sterile look of the architectural garden still as popular?
Just like some people keep their home interiors very simple, I think that there will always be a place for the architectural style garden. It represents the style of homes that are being built at the moment, and people are attracted to this style of planting because of the fact that it is very low maintenance.
I think the best style of garden should reflect the owner.
There is nothing better than visiting a home when we make our deliveries, and instantly associating that garden to our customer. It can be with a signature use of colour, a quirky statue, a style of planting, or even a plant that they obviously love repeated throughout the garden.
It is important to remember that your garden is just that – your garden, and it should reflect your own style.
Tell us about the importance of pruning in autumn?
Autumn brings with it the chance for either big or little change in the garden. Early autumn is a great time for big renovation pruning. You can safely take a third of growth of now, and your plants will recover before the winter sets in. Always be careful when cutting back into woody style growth that you do not go below the last set of leaves; if you do, your plant may not recover in time for winter. Pruning frequently throughout the autumn allows you to keep your workload light and will keep your plants tidy. With all the rain we have been having recently, plants will have shot away very quickly and by keeping this soft growth in check, you will benefit from thick, healthy plants.
It is important to remember that pruning and fertilising go hand in hand. A light application of a slow release fertiliser is all that is needed until the first sign of spring.
Autumn is traditionally a time to ‘feed’ the lawn. Why is this?
If the lawn hasn’t been fed since springtime, then early autumn provides the perfect time to do so. Grass grows quickly at this time and especially with all the rain, so I would advise a product that would concentrate more on root development than just greening up your grass. A slow release fertiliser is perfect. It might also be wise to set mower blades higher.
For the green thumb, the good news is that autumn is rose season … what varieties can we expect to enjoy this season?
The end of summer can leave your roses looking a little bit tired, but with a bit of care, autumn can bring you a fabulous last flush of flowers before their winter prune.
There are always plenty of new releases becoming available; however, it is the tried and tested older style roses that are still my favourite. Most people would agree that they’re hardier in the garden, while still providing a gorgeous array of flowers.
Mr Lincoln and Papa Meilland give beautiful velvety red flowers. There’s also Freesia and Gold Bunny for sunny yellows. Seduction and Bonica flower for months on end with pale pink flowers. Not forgetting varieties like Double Delight, Peace, Angel Face, Blue Moon and Iceberg. The good news is, you can find almost any colour in roses.
Interview by Karen Farrell.