I feel we are on the cusp; we are after all approaching the autumnal equinox [September the 22nd] and the start of autumn. But as you read this we still have the joys of summer with the pleasures of autumn to come. Take today for example; it’s been a nice day, not too hot not too cold just a nice day. I finished my work, came home, and pulled nettles for an hour. I had spent a lot of time earlier in the year pulling them out and spraying them with glyphosate weed killer but still they come. The skin on my forearms is tingling where my gloves failed to protect me. I do try and leave a few nettles here and there; they provide food and a home to up to 40 different species of insect including several species of butterfly which include the Small Tortoiseshell, the Comma, the Red Admiral, and the Peacock. Not only do butterflies feed on the flowers but they also lay their eggs on them. The young nettle leaves make a nutritious soup [apparently – only time I ever tried it smelt like boiled wee] and a tea that will ease a host of complaints from arthritis to hemorrhoids. Apparently.
A sure sign that the seasons are changing is the mix of things on sale in the garden centres. We now have our bulbs on sale with the full range of spring flowering daffodils, narcissi, tulips hyacinths and all the less common sorts. And if you want to know the difference between daffodils and narcissi I will let you into the secret…….there is no difference at all! Narcissus [plural= narcissi] is the botanical term and daffodil is the common name. In practice we use the first for special varieties and the species and daffodils to describe the everyday garden daffs with large golden or mixed colour trumpets. Gardeners and horticulturists have their own language, not jargon, but language but it adds to the whole growing experience to know what things are really called.
The other question so often asked is why have you got bulbs in the middle of summer? It’s all in the timing. The bulbs are actually lifted when the foliage dies down in May, then they are sorted and graded and prepared for sale. We could probably have them on sale in July but that really would be too early. The planting time extends up to the end of November for daffodils and the end of December for tulips, but these are the very latest dates and I certainly recommend buying your bulbs as early as possible if you want a good choice rather than the leftovers.
This is a wonderful time in the natural year. Hedgerows and orchards are heavy with fruit and the wild creatures are busy all around us, getting ready for the harder days to come. But for now, summer’s finale is there to be enjoyed.
Now is a good time for a sort out after the lazy days of summer. Pots and baskets will be looking tired and the lawn may be patchy, so there are plenty of excuses to be in the garden. We’re also coming into prime time for planting, from bulbs to perennials, shrubs and trees.
And September means ‘back to school’… If you haven’t got children this makes it a great time to get out and about, to visit gardens or go on plant-buying trips, away from the crowds of summer holidays. If your family is still at home, make the most of after school to get them outside, blackberrying and letting off steam after being cooped up all day.