15 September 2021

Head Gardener Pete White’s monthly blog

Welcome to my monthly article where I share some tips for your own garden and answer horticultural questions, as well as keeping you informed on some of the latest goings-on at Furzey.

And just like that, September has arrived. Here at Furzey Gardens, we can really feel a change in the air.  The space is becoming quieter day by day with many plants going to sleep; but, that doesn’t mean that the garden is any less beautiful than before.

If you pay a visit to Furzey Gardens this month, you can expect an abundance of hardy perennial plants, including a vibrant group that shows up in an assortment of bold and brilliant colours. First up is the helianthus, also known as the ‘lemon queen’ or perhaps more typically the sunflower. This bright yellow and orange plant is a hotbed for bees, insects, birds, butterflies and other pollinators thanks to its nectar-pollen-rich-flowers and seeds. We also have the helenium; another member of the sunflower family, but with smaller red/orange flowers. You may have heard them referred to as the ‘sneezeweed’ due to their unparalleled ability to cause hay fever.  Next you will find the aster; a daisy-like perennial with star shaped flower heads that burst in blues, purples and reds, adding a welcome dose of colour to an autumn landscape. This is a great flowering plant and an old-fashioned favourite – it makes for a brilliant focal point on herbaceous hedges. Controversially, the autumn aster was renamed the symphyotrichum; needless to say, us horticulturists tend to opt with the original name.

Helianthus autumnale and helianthus divaricatus

Many of our plants that flowered throughout the spring are now producing fruits; a popular feature of a late summer/autumn garden. This is particularly apparent in our malus species. Our malus robusta (also known as the siberian crab) is now covered in scarlet red berries. These berries will hang onto the tree until October/November when flocks of birds will join us in the garden and strip the trees bare. Similarly, our malus sargentiana trees are displaying clusters of red fruits.

Move on over to our sorbus species and you will discover another sargentiana, both named after the man who sponsored the plant collector sent to uncover and introduce the plants. We also have a sorbus with a good deal of local interest: the sorbus commixta ‘embley’. This Japanese tree was hybridised at Embley Park – the family home of Florence Nightingale. Her family member was a key horticulturist and this rich autumnal plant is well worth a visit.

As we take advantage of a slower pace here at Furzey Gardens, I encourage you to do the same. Now is the perfect time to get your garden in the best possible shape for next spring. There’s a high chance that many of your plants will have stopped flowering by now. Be sure to deadhead them so that they don’t put all of their vigour into producing more seeds and, instead, can direct their attention into extending their legs with more flowers. Your hardy annual plants will also finish if they haven’t already; for example, your nigellas, california poppies and english marigolds. Gather their seeds and scatter them across your garden so that they will grow back in the springtime.

Another eye catching plant to do this with is the orlaya. This is a humble flower with pure white feathery foliage. It works well fed in between brighter plants as it enables their colour to stand out more. You can either choose to sow their seeds straight away – scattering randomly across your plant beds – or save them and wait to add them into a cleared out border.

Speaking of borders, September offers an opportune time to replenish them; especially if you are considering adding in new trees and shrubs. The temperature will keep the plants warm so that they can start rooting and then carry on growing as they settle into the winter. In the gardening world, we have a saying: the first year the plants sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. Essentially, don’t be disheartened if you don’t see immediate results – your plants are nevertheless working hard!

A great example of this is with your daffodils: they love being planted early. If you enjoy these gentle bursts of yellow, start to buy and plant your bulbs so that they are in the ground by the end of september. That way, they will hopefully grow well for the coming spring.

Finally, if you are filling your compost heap, it’s time to turn it! Tip it out and move the fresh load to the bottom. You can then spread the rotted addition across your borders. Worms will grab it and drag it down below the surface, doing all the hard work for you.

Malus berries and red admiral butterfly

Last month I was happy to report that our butterfly count was steadily increasing. Normally, September would see that count start to decline. A benefit of a very wet and dull August is that many of the broods have been delayed and are only now hatching. This means that we are experiencing a late flush of butterflies, including the spectacular garden varieties such as the peacock, painted lady and red admiral.

If you have any gardening questions that you would like me to answer next month, please do write in and I’ll try to cover them in the October edition.

What to see at Furzey Gardens this month.

Much like last month, the team have been busy pruning key areas of the garden; in particular, our rhododendron, azalea, wisteria and climbing shrubs. Some plants have been radically pruned back. If you pass some of our azalea, for example, you’ll notice that they are now small stubs with seemingly bare twigs. However, take a closer look and you will see hundreds of shoots. These will keep growing far into the autumn ready to come into full bloom next year.

Collecting up the hay bales in the wildflower meadow

We have also been cutting our hay meadow, baling it up and taking it away. We left the meadow for as long as possible so that wildflowers could self seed, but it is integral that we remove a crop of hay every year. If you haven’t already, come and take a look at the new growth of wildflowers; it’s fast becoming one of my favourite parts of the garden.

Next time you join us, pay attention to the subtle shift as we near the end of the summer. There’s something really magical about watching the garden move from season to season; it always offers something new and exciting.

We are continuously grateful to everyone visiting Furzey Gardens; there is nothing better than seeing it bursting with visitors once again. Our inside seating in the tea rooms is still closed for now, but there are more tables on the terrace for refreshments. Remember; our gardens and tea rooms are open seven days a week and we would love to welcome you into our woodland hideaway.

Pete White, Head Gardener

This article originally appeared as the monthly In The Garden column in the Lymington Times, buy the paper on the second Friday of every month to read the next column first.

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