Chris Beardshaw, September

PUBLISHED: 14:52 07 January 2011 | UPDATED: 16:11 20 February 2013

September is a good time for gardeners to go back to school, says Chris Beardshaw

September is a good time for gardeners to go back to school, says Chris Beardshaw

September is the 'back to school' month and for many us and gardeners are no different - this is the perfect time to enrole on a course or workshop.

September is the 'back to school' month and for many us and gardeners are no different - this is the perfect time to enrole on a course or workshop. There are so many courses available across the county so if you want to become a little more green fingered look out for ones running near you. Favourite plants this month for me include; Asters (often called the Michaelmas daisy), and those that keep the spirit of summer alive such as the Rudbekia's, Dahlia's and Nerine's.

Autumn Crocus

Throughout late summer and early autumn gardens can be enlivened with the sultry pink blooms of the Autumn Crocus, Colchicum autumnale. It is perhaps surprising to learn that this glamorous and silky bloom, whose shape rather resembles a champagne flute, is a native wildflower. It is available now in nurseries and garden centres, and can be planted under shrubs and amongst light canopied herbaceous perennials where, over time, it will naturalise and carpet the ground. The flowers, which emerge before the foliage, may be delicate in appearance but the plant is sufficiently robust to withstand competition from grasses, meaning that it is an ideal candidate for drifting through lawns and meadows. Plant the corms 10cm deep in a fertile and well-drained soil and after flowering don't trim grass till the plants spring foliage has faded.

Time for a tidy up

Trim off any leaves that are overshadowing ripening crops such as tomatoes, courgettes, pumpkins, marrows and grapes, as they will be blocking the light needed by the fruits in these last few weeks of warm sunshine. The yellowing, old leaves should be taken first but don't remember not to take too much off each plant

Clear space around emerging cyclamen as they can easily be hidden by the foliage of other taller plants whose leaves might be starting to flag. Simply trim the other plants back a bit and watch the miniature and beautiful flowers appear.


It is time to sow sets of garlic but as these won't be ready for lifting until next June or July they can tie up part of your vegetable plot so if you're a bit tight on space try planting them out in your borders instead. Some types, like Elephant Garlic, are ornamental and as they belong to the Allium family they bear familiar pom-pom heads on long straight stems which wouldn't look at all out of place. Just remember that if you do allow them to flower their energy is taken away from bulb development resulting in smaller crops so it might be worth sowing twice as many bulbs as you require and allowing half of them to flower and harvest the other half. As garlic is supposed to help improve the scent of roses and generally help ward off pests from most plant species you may find that it is a real benefit to the garden.

Spring containers

Spend some time planning for next spring by planting up containers with bulbs - these can then be placed close to your house, or be used to brighten up any dormant patches of the garden, next spring. If you plan wisely you can have a succession of flowering pots from as early as January right through to May that can moved around as required. Play with new varieties like the recently voted bulb of the year Muscari latifolium whose bright blue tiny flowers look stunning planted as single species in a lead or zinc container. Other new bulbs to try are a fiery orange variety of Fritillaria persica, Narcissus 'Recurvus' and Tulipa 'Red Riding Hood'. Mixing bright colours together adds flamboyance and fun into the garden or to keep it more serene try a simple theme of blues and whites.


Don't worry if mushrooms start to appear in your garden as the vast majority of these organisms are not problematic. They feed on dead and decaying organic matter and form an essential component of soil activity. The traditional mushroom that appears in autumn is actually only a part of the life cycle of these secretive structures that spend most of their life growing long lines of cells, called mycelium, through the moist soil seeking organic matter and moisture. The mushroom or Toadstool is the fruiting part, popping to the surface of the soil to produce a cap under which are hidden the thin radial lines of gills from which the spores are released. Like fine seeds these scatter in the breeze and in water before germinating. If you are curious to know more about fungi look out for the numerous 'Fungal Forays' that take place at this time of the year in woodlands, parks and gardens across the country.

Root Cuttings

As we enter the dormant period plants such as Verbascum, Phlox and Oriental Poppies are ripe for taking root cuttings. This is a fantastic way to increase stock without compromising the vigour of the parent plant. Simply lift the plants from the ground and then with a sharp knife cut away a couple of young strong looking roots near the crown. These should be about as thick as a pencil and 5 -10cm long. Insert these vertically into cutting compost, with the root end that was nearest the parent plant uppermost. Place on a heated bench or in a sheltered frame to encourage rooting.

My Diary

I too will be going to college this month, but from a tutorial perspective, as I pop back up to Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh to see how the design students are getting on and I will also be presenting the diploma awards at both Kew and Edinburgh during September. Look out for further details on all these projects on If you want to ask gardening questions then log onto

Latest from the Cotswold Life