by James Alexander-Sinclair

I do love the garden in October. Early Spring is all about hope and waiting. A month later there is green stuff all over the place. Then the mid-summer crescendo.

Seed heads in OctoberI do love the garden in October - especially in the sunshine. In the early Spring it is all about hope and waiting: all that mulch and neatly tidied brown border. A month or so later and there is green stuff and bulbs all over the place. Then we are into the crescendo of mid-summer and things happen quick and fast - every day a new beginning and a new combination. By September all the glories of the summer are exhausted and having a bit of a lie down - the mood is, well for want of a better expression, a bit post-coital.

But it is by no means all over as now the late summer perennials and shrubs (Rudbeckias, Asters, Ceratostigmas, Cimicifuga, Nicotiana sylvestris etc) kick in giving a second wind to borders. October comes and even the late-arrivals at the ball are beginning to lose their energy - their ties are loosened and they sit smiling in the corner (slightly cross eyed) rather than strutting their stuff centre stage. The grasses have reached their full - if rather understated - magnificence, the occasional rose clings on, the Sedum has sprawled and the seed catalogues thud onto the doormat (postal strikes permitting).

It is the most relaxed time in the garden not just because the plants are semi-comatose but also because there is not a lot to do: there seems little point in weeding much (the nights are too cold for most annual weeds to bother with seeding themselves), why bother to tie back a sprawling plant when you are going to cut them all down anyway soon? Even the grass stops growing quite as relentlessly. It is best just to watch: in the morning the spiders webs are glimmering with dew, the sun sneaks over the horizon at a much more civilised hour, the light is different, the sun (when it is there) is just the right temperature, the trees are beginning to turn, the apples are ready, the Nerines are just starting and the last tomatoes are still warm in the greenhouse.

Enjoy it now because tomorrow anything could happen (and, probably, it will rain).

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Talkback: Octoberfest
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Gardeners' World Web User 10/10/2007 at 16:00

Don't be too fastidious clearing up. Birds and other wildlife will need all the help we can give them through the winter.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2007 at 13:06

I'd forgotten how much I like Autumn, you get distracted by the thought of cold, damp weather, then a quick ten minutes tidying up in the garden turns into a relaxed, productive afternoon, surrounded by colours only a British autumn can provide, and the promise of new life to follow with the bulbs being planted for spring. The hedgehogs make a lovely sight mid-evening looking for food and the birds are certainly making the most of all the garden provides, all in all, one can't help feeling a little satisfied and smug when being a part of it!

Gardeners' World Web User 18/10/2007 at 18:36

read any gardening tips now and it will tell you to raise the cutting height of the mower, cutting more grass in a week than most people do in a year our advice is cut it now as short as possible and you will have no trouble come march, you will do no harm to the grass and those tips where alright 50yrs ago but times are changing.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/10/2007 at 19:18

I agree about the mowing. Autumns are much warmer. Personally I hate mowing and wish it would stop earlier but I have still found myself mowing up until about December over the past couple of years - I think it may be the lawn's revenge for all the swearing I subject it to over the year.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:29

I too love Autumn in the garden for its late colours and gentle pace. However I do find it is worth clearing up and tying back a little, if only because it often reveals a little gem of a flower that has been hidden by this years rather lax and sprawling growth. Perhaps this is more applicable in a tiny garden like mine, where far too many plants are squeezed in to satisfy my ever growing'plant mania'.