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September 2007

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Planting bulbs, cleaning out the bog garden, taking cuttings

It is at this time of year that I start planning for next year's display. The bulbs for spring 2008 are now available and I always make room for a few new varieties.The bulbs that will flower next winter and early spring should be planted in October and November, so it is worthwhile buying now while there is a good selection. Usually I avoid planting snowdrops in the autumn, preferring to get them when still in leaf, ‘in the green' as they say. However, last year I was given a box of the beautiful large-flowered snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, and, to my surprise, they all emerged safely. I am being much more careful in my selection of new narcissi and tulips and am avoiding the tall varieties and those heavy double-flowered types, as they are easily damaged by our Atlantic gales.

This month is an ideal time to divide the irises in the bog garden. Very often I put off doing this until spring. If done now, they seem to flower much better next year. It is also a great morale boost to have that section of the garden cleaned up and organised in the autumn. The rhizomatous beardless irises are best suited to the climate of the west and the Siberian iris species, Iris sibirica and I. chrysographes; the Japanese water irises I. ensata and I. laevigata; and the Pacific Coast iris species I. innominata and its hybrids all thrive here. There is a wonderful range of colours in these species and they all come easily from seed.

While cutting back and dividing herbaceous plants during September, I always collect seeds, both for my own use and also to send away for seed exchanges. I have been collecting seed at intervals throughout the summer months, but there is an abundance just now, and this needs to be harvested as it ripens. I belong to a number of gardening societies both in Ireland and England that distribute seed to their members. Vast quantities of the plants in my garden have come from these sources. If a member becomes a donor and sends in their own seed they are given an extra allocation of five or ten packets, so it is well worth the effort. The range of seed available by this route is fantastic.

This month is an ideal time to divide the irises in the bog garden.

This month is also good for propagation by cuttings. During the first week or two, I take soft-wood cuttings of fuchsias, pelargoniums, and some of the half-hardy plants that may not survive our wet windy winters, such as argyranthemums and osteospermums. In late September and October, I take cuttings of numerous shrubs and trees to root over winter in either the cold frame with plastic, for example, pittosporums and cupressocyparis, or in the open ground. Because we have a mild moist climate here the protection of the frame is not essential, provided that the cuttings are inserted in a sheltered shaded area.



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