Fruits and leaves take on a starring role in the garden at this time of year
Don't you just love the continuity in gardening, where one season blends seamlessly into another, bringing a multitude of eye-catching treats to the fore in process.
The transformation that comes with spring growth, and the wall-to-wall colour of summer. The mellow fruitfulness of autumn, and the winter defiance of so many ornamental shrubs.
You don’t have to work through it all as many of us do, in order to enjoy year-round gardening. Regular visits to local venues that remain open to the public can sate the need to be with plants and in contact with nature.
As we head into autumn, fruits and leaves play a starring role, and it’s not as if the former suddenly appeared overnight.
They’ve just been marking time in the background, waiting for the cooler weather, to start glowing brightly and grabbing attention.
Typical of this is the holly (ilex). It flowered back in May and the tiny, dull berries were in place by mid-July. Now they’re turning bright red, a beacon for blackbirds at the first sign of frost.
Purple fruits of berberis that formed alongside the hollies are long gone, an early treat for the birds. The same fate lies in store for cotoneaster, sorbus, pyracantha and a whole raft of ornamental fruits currently illuminating our parks and gardens.
I admit to feeling an element of ‘Oh no!’ when birds arrive in numbers and strip an ornamental tree of its harvest, but surely, we plant them to attract different species, and it’s a joy to observe them feasting.
One benefit of this is a free supply of trees or shrubs springing up in the mixed borders. When a berry-eating bird is on passage through your plot, it will deposit the seed of a species consumed elsewhere, plus a dollop of organic matter.
In this garden I’ve earmarked several such plants; hollies, berberis, cotoneaster, leycesteria, rosa, for movement into pots and growing on.
Similarly, you can collect fruits from a favourite tree or shrub and propagate them, via stratification, for an ornamental barrier or hedge.
Two types that respond well to this process are Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Rosa rugosa. Being species, both reproduce true to form from seed.
Start with a pot (preferably clay) and some gritty sand. Break open the rose hips to collect the seed and lay them in between alternate layers of sand built up to the pot rim.
Prepare haws in the same way and stand both containers outside, exposing them to rain and frost over winter.
In spring, their dormancy broken, there are two options; leave well alone, for as long as it takes a sign of germination to appear, or, tip the pots, retrieve the seeds and sown them into a tray of gritty compost that remains outdoors until germination.