Monday 21 September 2020, 04:39 GMT

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Gardening in October

There is definitely a nip in the air! The temperature range this week in my garden was a maximum of 22c and a minimum of 2c! No frosts but the plants are showing the signs of autumn!
I love autumn. I feel there is more varied colour than almost any other time of year. The flowers still around at this time tend to be reds through oranges, unlike Spring which tends to be full of yellows. Also at this time of year there are fruits and the smells in the autumn of rotting leaves and fruit can be so pungent.
In The Kitchen Garden
Plant out spring cabbage. Finish planting onion sets and plant garlic. Keep lifting carrots, beetroots and potatoes.
Keep harvesting apples. The early varieties of apples tend not to store very well. Store the later varieties, making sure that you pick ripe but not over ripe, blemish free fruit. Wrap in newspaper and put into cardboard boxes and store in a moist dark place such as a shed or cellar. Not the attic as this has to grewat a range in temps. Check frequently duing the winter.
When I was at Wisley we stored hundreds of varieties of apples in a shed on wooden racks. Every month or so (when it rained!) we would turn all the apples over and check for rot……………… I ate so many half rotted apples I was occasionally a bit unwell!
If you have a glasshouse you can still sow radishes, lettuce and other crops for an autumn harvest,
Flower Garden
I’ve been really impressed by my Penstemons as I cut them back a month or so and they have rewarded me by flowering now. As they die back you should cut them back.
Move tender plants either inside or cover then up with either Hessian or horticultural fleece.
If you have not fed your lawn there is still time to do it. Choose a propriety brand of Autumn Fertilizer either with or without moss killer. Make sure that you use a distributor or if you use your hands be very careful as an overdose will kill the lawn! Don’t be tempted to use spring or summer fertilizer as this has too much nitrogen which will cause green growth rather than root growth and hardiness.
The Papers
As you know I normally scan the national press for gardening related articles and I usually find 2 or 3. I think some more important news has taken precedence somehow!
Plant of the Week
Schizostylis coccinea
(the Kaffir Lily)
     Schizostylis belongs to the Iridaceae. It is a native from East Cape Province, South Africa to Zimbabwe. In South Africa it is called the Scarlet River Lily for it grows along streamsides and in damp places at an altitude from 900 to 1675m (300 to 5,500'). Schizostylis coccinea, the only species, was named by Backhouse and Harvey and is featured in Curtis' Botanical Magazine 5422 in 1864. It is closely related to Hesperantha which also occurs in this area. The name Schizostylis means divided columns or styles. There are three prominent styles and three stamens. Hesperantha translates to evening flower.
     Schizostylis coccinea is a rhizomatous perennial with spear-shaped flat leaves on the flower spikes which grow to 60cm (20") tall. There are up to fourteen, starry, salver-shaped flowers on a stem, and can be 5cm (2") across. The six petals are shiny scarlet as are styles and the filaments but the anthers are purple black.
     Schizostylis coccinea is valued in gardens for its late flowering - August to November. In sheltered gardens the flowering season can be much extended. Schizostylis coccinea is a most useful cut flower which lasts well in a vase.
     There is a wide array of cultivars offered nowadays. The first three to be grown to wide acclaim were 'Major', 'Mrs Hegarty' and 'Viscountess Byng'. Schizostylis coccinea 'Major' has bright red shiny flowers which are larger and more robust than the wild form.
     Schizostylis coccinea 'Mrs Hegarty' was named by Sir Frederick Moore, the Director of Glasnevin Botanic Garden, after the lady who discovered a chance pink seedling in her garden in CountyGalway in 1914. She was persuaded to show her plant at the RHS show in London in 1919. It was immediately successful and was given an Award of Merit. Schizostylis coccinea 'Mrs Hegarty' has deep rose-pink flowers and yellow anthers and has been rather superceded by the cultivar 'Sunrise' which is also pink. Schizostylis coccinea 'Viscountess Byng' has pale pink petals and the anthers are purple brown. This cultivar is later flowering and is named after the dedicated rock gardener of the 1920's. Her flower beds were sometimes temporarily covered in water.
     There are 32 cultivars in the current Plant Finder, including a white flowered form. A selection of these to provide a wide range of colours include Schizostylis coccinea forma alba; 'Pink Princess' - a new cultivar with white tinged pink flowers; 'Pallida' very pale pink; 'Zeal Salmon', clear salmon pink; 'Jennifer', clear pink; 'Tambara', rose-pink; 'Professor Barnard', dusky red. To extend the season, Schizostylis coccinea 'Cardinal' with large red flowers is early flowering, while 'November Cheer' with 'Viscountess Byng', are both late flowering. All are lovely plants which, given the correct conditions, will give a welcome splash of colour for the forthcoming months.
As one of the common names suggests, Schizostylis coccinea should be grown in a light loam soil to which organic matter has been added to retain moisture and planted in a sunny position. They seem to flower best in a wet year. Plants will quickly spread by rhizomes and may need division after a few years.
Propagation of the cultivars is by division and is best done in the late winter before growth begins. Seed can be sown in very early spring in a standard seed compost and may produce a range of colourful seedlings.
Schizostylis coccinea 'Major'
 Happy Gardening till next week!

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