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Garden guide

PUBLISHED: 06:49 13 October 2014

Keith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries.  Photo: Bill Smith

Keith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries. Photo: Bill Smith

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As the seasons change from late summer to early autumn, perennials such as Rudbeckias, Asters and Echinacea keep the borders looking vibrant; combined with grasses glistening in the morning dew the effect can be stunning.

Keith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries.  Photo: Bill SmithKeith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries. Photo: Bill Smith

There are also late-flowering shrubs and climbers which are still putting on a good display. One such climber is Solanum crispum Glasnevin, a member of the potato family and native to South America. It bears clusters of deep purple–blue, lightly scented flowers from summer to autumn. Solanums are best grown against a south or west-facing wall or fence in well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil, where they provide the best show and in milder winters can retain most of their leaves. S.c. Glasnevin is a strong growing plant reaching up to six metres, but can easily be kept in control by pruning in early spring Then is also the time to feed with a high potash to encourage lots of flowers later in the year.

Excellent perennials for autumn colour include Hesperantha formally Schizostylis, which can flower right through to November or later if the weather is open, in shades of red, white and pink.

H. coccinea major is a good, strong growing, red variety, its narrow sword-shaped leaves grow to around 60cm, with crimson-scarlet flowers around six centimetress across. H. alba has white flowers with slightly narrower petals. Good pink varieties include one of my favourites - H.c.sunrise - which has large, salmon-pink flowers, and H.c.Jennifer which has flowers with large, rounded petals of mid-pink. Hesperantha are best divided every two to three years to maintain vigour. They enjoy moisture-retentive humus rich soil in a good sunny spot where they can thrive until the onset of frosts.

Keith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries.  Photo: Bill SmithKeith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries. Photo: Bill Smith

Plant of the month

Desfontania spinosa

This is a fascinating evergreen shrub from the South American Andes. In summer it produces bright scarlet, tubular flowers with orange-yellow tips which stand out well against the dark green, holly-like leaves. It prefers a partially shaded spot growing in moist but well-drained soil on the acid side. The ultimate height and spread is around 1.8m, but it is slow-growing and after about six years my plant is half that size.

Keith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries.  Photo: Bill SmithKeith Clouting, plantsman at Taverham nurseries. Photo: Bill Smith

Question time

My new garden has heavy clay soil. How can l improve it?

Firstly a plus point, clay is a fertile soil but to improve the texture you will need to add quite a large amount of organic matter, such as spent mushroom compost, garden compost or an organic soil improver. This could be dug in or you could put a 10-15cm layer on the surface, which worms and other organisms will incorporate into the soil over the winter.

Catch up with Keith.

The old canes of summer fruiting raspberries can be cut back now; new canes can be tied in for next year’s crop, making sure not to overcrowd.

Wallflowers and other winter bedding can be planted now for a colourful display next spring.

Put grease bands around fruit trees to prevent winter moths climbing and laying eggs.

Continue deadheading flowers such as dahlias to prolong their display.

Taverham Nursery Centre, Fir Covert Road, Norwicch, NR9 6HT; 01603 860522; wwww.taverhamnursery.co.uk

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