Prioritise outstanding jobs and get to work

The stunning colour of the autumn crocus (colchicum) is certainly something to admire. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
The stunning colour of the autumn crocus (colchicum) is certainly something to admire. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

With so many natural visual distractions and a diversity of fragrances in the air, there’s no denying that autumn has finally arrived.

So we must make time to pause and admire the gorgeous array of colours from aster, cimicifuga, sedum, fuchsias, colchicum, cyclamen and others.

But having done so, it’s time to prioritise the outstanding jobs and get to work.

Propagation is a year-round activity in this garden, and it intensifies on all fronts in October.

Hardy, outdoor ornamental plants are in process of stem thickening in preparation for whatever winter has in store, but soft tissue remains in the growth tips of some.

These can be rooted in modest warmth under cover, within a gritty compost. A dome-topped propagating tray will do the trick.

We’re currently taking late cuttings of shrubby Weigela Florida Variegata and Escallonia Apple Blossom.

By the end of this month weigela will have lost its cream and green leaves, but rooting will continue.

Hardy fuchsias continue blooming profusely, but the flowers of penstemons are beginning to fade.

Both species have entertained throughout summer and are key performers so we can’t waste the wealth of stem cutting material they’re currently offering.

Given the extremes of weather that have dominated the news of late, my tendency is to propagate from existing favourite plants where possible as back-up in case of winter plant casualties. Cast your eye over any favourite shrubs or herbs in the garden and see if they’re up for it.

Tender pelargoniums (geraniums) that spend their lives in the conservatory have a year-round purpose.

Those grown for their spectacular flowers and zonal leaf markings have bloomed since June and are now due a rest period so they are pruned and the softer stems are prepared as 12cm cuttings.

All leaves but the topmost four remain as they’re inserted around the inner side of small compost-filled pots. These are watered once only and placed in warmth and light without any overhead cover.

A collection of scented geraniums has just taken over flowering and fragrance responsibilities until next spring. It comprises Graveolens, Quantock Kirsty, Attar of Roses, Robin, Crispum, Hemley and the grandly named P. denticulatum Filicifolium.

All we need do is water occasionally, imbibe the assorted fragrances at will, and remove spent flowers to keep more coming.