Autumn gardening tips: from our garden to yours
We know that gardens and growing spaces have brought comfort to many of you during these difficult times. These places of calm provide an escape from the pressures of the outside world and help us keep our bodies and minds healthy.
Our gardeners have loved answering your questions. We’ll continue to bring the best of our gardens to you at home so you can get the most out of gardening this autumn.
At this time of year, it's all about preparing your garden for winter and planting bulbs for a spring display. Early autumn is a good time to plant roses, hardy climbers, shrubs and perennials while the ground is still warm.
We experience nature with all our senses and we can design our gardens and growing spaces around sight, touch, sound and smell. Inspired by the new movie adaptation of The Secret Garden, a Sky Original in cinemas and on Sky Cinema 23 October, our gardeners share their knowledge of plants that will invigorate your senses throughout the winter months.
Christmas box (Sarcococca hookeriana)
This small evergreen shrub can be easily overlooked until mid or late winter when its lovely lingering scent will catch your attention. Plant it close to a path for best effect.
Wintersweet and early stachyurus
If you like unusual plants then look out for these two late-winter beauties, wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and early stachyurus (Stachyurus praecox). Both flower in late winter and early spring.
Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)
The paperbark maple is a small tree for all seasons. In the winter the copper-coloured peeling bark catches the stark sunlight that accompanies a crisp and clear day.
Tibetan cherry tree (Prunus serrula)
This small tree may not be a first choice for flowers but its glossy bronze bark is a spectacular sight in winter.
Daphne 'Jacqueline Postill'
With its winning combination of flowers and scent, there are few plants that can compete with 'Jacqueline Postill'. It's known for its large mauve blooms and powerful fragrance.
Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)
This is a reliable and easily-grown shrub, which produces creamy white flowers that attract bees and last throughout much of the winter.
Wellbeing and gardens
Gardens, growing spaces and nature at home or in our local area have been a source of comfort during these difficult times. The act of gardening, growing plants or enjoying the peace and beauty of a special outdoor space is an invaluable way of recharging batteries and temporarily escaping a worrying world.
During lockdown, many of us grew vegetables and worked hard to make our gardens or growing spaces more beautiful and attractive to wildlife. There are few things more satisfying than the sight of emerging seedlings from plants you sowed yourself.
We became more appreciative of public parks and paid closer attention to the sights and sounds of the natural world around us. We know that connecting with nature enhances wellbeing. The Noticing Nature report, which we released in partnership with the University of Derby, uncovered a powerful link between nature and happiness.
Gardens become markers of time and renew our relationship with the passing of the seasons as we watch plants shed leaves, flower, fruit and change colour. From Cragside in the north east to Trelissick in the south west, our gardeners will be working through autumn and winter to prepare gardens for spring and summer. Bulbs are being planted and shrubs and perennials are being tended to.
Keeping your plants healthy
UK Plant Health Week in September celebrated the benefits of healthy plants, which clean the air we breathe, provide food, support wildlife and boost the economy. To show our support for the campaign, which encouraged people to do their bit for plant health at home, we asked our gardeners to share their top tips on keeping plants happy and healthy.
Remove leaves from around pest or disease-prone plants such as roses, box or horse chestnut trees. The shed leaves can harbour diseases during the winter.
Get plants from reputable growers and avoid any plants that look tired or unhealthy as they can harbour diseases and pests.
Rake up leaves to make leaf mold to feed next year’s plants.
Caring for borders
Clear dead stems and foliage on perennials in your borders. If your compost is ready to use, it can be spread on the soil to feed next year’s growth and insulate roots from the worst of the winter frosts.
Don’t over-water potted plants from late autumn and through the dormant period (not at all if they are outside) as this can increase fungal diseases.
Caring for veg plots
If you have a vegetable plot clear spent plants such as peas and beans before they rot and become refuges for disease.
Protect against frost
Remember to protect vulnerable plants from severe frost. Move potted plants into a shed, porch or garage; cover others with a light fleece or sheet.
Prepare your lawn for winter by leaving about 80 to 100mm of grass. This will allow the grass to utilise the lower winter sunshine levels and remain healthy and ready for spring growth.
Reduce the risk of disease in your garden
Biosecurity may sound very high-tech in terms of domestic gardens but there are several simple measures to reduce the risk of introducing or spreading diseases. It's important to keep an eye out for diseased plants and then, if you'll excuse the pun, nip the problem in the bud.
Once a pest, disease or pernicious weed has got into a garden, it’s very hard to get rid of, so be extra careful when bringing in new plants, soil or other materials. Only buy or accept healthy looking plants from reputable sources and resist the temptation to accept offers of surplus topsoil or old compost of uncertain origin that could harbour invasive pests or weeds. Propagating your own plants from seed or cuttings is not only enjoyable, it also eliminates the risk of bringing in new diseases.
Some plants such as roses, box and cherries are highly susceptible to various fungal and bacterial diseases and particular care should be taken to prevent the spread to other plants. Tools such as secateurs should be disinfected as you move from one plant to another and any diseased plant material should be destroyed, not sent to the compost heap with the healthy stuff.
As a rule, healthy plants tend to be more resistant to any pests or diseases doing the rounds and feeding the soil is fundamental to ensure they continue to thrive. Mulching with homemade compost is the best way to do this and has the additional benefit of preventing many soil-dwelling diseases from moving onto the lower foliage of susceptible plants.
We need your support
We care for more than 200 gardens with a history spanning 400 years or more. This involves protecting a collection of 70,000 different types of plants, as well as a variety of different landscapes and historical features. Taking care of all of this is challenging and costly work and we can't do it without your help. A donation of £25 today could help us plant a rare rose shrub or contribute towards replanting a herbaceous border at one of the places in our care.