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Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 16 - September 2012
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Continue to deadhead flowers to keep displays going as long as possible.
  • This month is your last chance to take cuttings from tender plants.
  • Collect seeds from your perennials and annuals to sow next year or swap with friends.
  • Hardy annuals, such as nigella, can be sown now so they establish before the winter. Cut down the flowered stems of spent perennials.
  • Sow next year’s sweet peas in deep pots and keep in a cold frame over winter.
  • Fill in gaps in your displays with autumn-flowering bulbs and bedding (such as nerines and gentians).
  • Start to plant out your spring bedding, including violas and wallflowers.
  • Small evergreen shrubs, conifers and trees can be moved over the autumn.
  • Plant hyacinth bulbs by the middle of the month to have Christmas flowers.
Fruit and veg
  • Sow lettuce, spring cabbages, winter spinach, cauliflowers, Chinese cabbages, pak choi, hardy spring onions and rocket.
  • Plant hardy onion sets for early summer crops.
  • Sow green manure (eg forage rye) in empty beds to suppress weeds and provide nutrients when dug back in in the spring.
  • This month you should be able to harvest autumn raspberries, blackberries, early apples, Conference pears, sweetcorn, marrows, courgettes, beans, lettuce, rocket, spring onions, Chinese leaves, oriental radishes, autumn cauliflowers, cabbages, pencil leeks, maincrop potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic and globe artichokes.
  • Leave any unripe tomatoes on outdoor plants, then bring them indoors to ripen when the weather gets too cold for them outside.
  • Prune out fruited canes from blackberries and loganberries.
  • Keep an eye on the night time temperatures and cover crops to protect them from the cold.
  • Pot up or dry herbs for use over the winter.
General tasks
  • Start to bring tender plants under cover this month as overnight temperatures start to dip.
  • Clean any shading paint off your greenhouse now to let more light in.
  • Raise the height of your mowing cut and start to mow less frequently as the grass growth slows.
  • Cut down summer flowering meadows, leaving the cuttings in place until the seeds have ripened and been released.
  • Last chance to trim hedges before the winter.
  • Cover ponds with netting to stop leaves falling into them.
Aster ericoides f. prostratus 'Snow Flurry'Plant of the month

Aster ericoides f. prostratus 'Snow Flurry' is a relatively petite aster, growing to just a 50cm height. It's great for the front of beds and borders, and for use as ground cover. Its profusion of small white flowers appear throughout the autumn and are useful for flower arranging. Find out more...

Problem of the monthNectria cinnabarina - Coral spot

Coral spot intially appears as raised, salmon pink spots on woody stems, often around areas of dead wood (eg from die back). Similar red pustules may also appear. Affected parts should be cut out and burned, although often replacing the plant can be an easier way of dealing with this potentially fatal disease. There are no chemical controls available. Find out more...

In the news

Floral footie display

Forest Green Rovers FC have embraced ecodiversity in planting a wildflower meadow, including several species of orchids, at their Gloucestershire stadium. They are also working towards having the world's first organic pitch. Chairman Dale Vince is a co-founder (with England coach Gary Neville) of Sustainability In Sport.

New food developments

Dorset based watercress grower 'The Watercress Company' has become the first European commercial grower of wasabi, the strong flavoured condiment often used in Japanese cooking. Elsewhere in Europe heart-shaped strawberries have gone on sale for the first time. The fruits are grown in clear plastic moulds to ensure a perfect shape.

London streets to close for playtime

Over the coming months Hackney Council in London will be trialling a 'play streets' initiative. Designated roads will be closed to traffic at certain times of day to provide more outdoor play space for children and encourage physical activity.

An extra-colourful autumn?

Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire is predicting a fabulous autumn colour display this year. Head Gardener Matthew Hall suggests that the dry winter and early spring, followed by a wet summer, has encouraged a growth spurt which could lead to a spectacular autumnal show.


The stars of late summer

Aster frikartii 'Monch'Asters burst onto the scene in August and will keep providing a cascade of colour well into the autumn. Find out more about this late bloomer with our top 5 aster facts:

1. Virgil wrote about asters in his poem the Georgics (book 4) which was completed around 29BC.

2. When you look at an aster flowerhead you’re not just looking at one flower, but many. Each one of the long petals is actually a flower (“ray flowers”) plus the central disk is also made up of many tiny flowers all bunched together (“disk flowers”). This is a ‘composite’ flower arrangement which is common to all plants within the Asteraceae family. The individual flowers open sequentially, in an inward-moving spiral pattern. The varied opening times mean that different flowers are fertilised by different pollen to promote variety. This evolutionary strategy has been very successful for the Asteraceae family which grows abundantly and is the second most diverse plant family with around 22,000 different species.

3. What's in a name? Well, the genus name Aster is the ancient Greek for 'star’ and refers to the shape of the flowerhead. Following DNA research the North American species of asters are now categorised under the Symphyotrichum genus, so Aster novi-belgii is now Symphyotrichum novi-belgii and Aster lateriflorus is now Symphyotrichum lateriflorum. The aster's common names include Michaelmas daisy and starwort. The name 'Michaelmas daisy' originated around the time of the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. At this point Michaelmas Day, the feast day of St Michael the Archangel, was brought forward to the 29th September, when the aster is flowering. Traditionally asters were worn to church or school on that day. The epithet 'starwort' is derived from the Old English 'wort', which originally meant 'root', and was adapted to mean any plant which has medicinal benefits.

4. During the Hungarian revolution of the 31st October 1918 protesters in Budapest wore asters and the events of that day subsequently became known as the 'Aster revolution'.

5. One legend explaining why the aster received this name (other than because of the star-like shape of the flowers) is that the plant arose when the Greek goddess of justice, innocence and purity, Astraea, became unhappy at the corruption on Earth and decided to dwell in the stars as the constellation Virgo. Depending on the version you read, she either looked at the Earth and cried because she couldn't see any stars, or she wept for the two lost and lonely humans who remained after Zeus flooded the Earth in his anger at the sins of man. In both stories the aster flower then grew out of the soil where her tears fell.

Want to know more? We have another five fascinating facts in our aster blog!


Answers to last month's "Let's get botanical!" crossword puzzle

How did you get on with August's crossword? If you were stuck on any, here are the answers:


1. Helleborus
3. Cornus
4. Acer
7. Morus
9. Narcissus
10. Erica


1. Hamamelis
2. Rosa
3. Carpinus
5. Campsis
6. Rubus
8. Dicentra


What's on this month

Enjoy the weather while it's still warm and try these early autumnal treats:

  • 5th to 9th September - Wisley Flower Show, RHS Wisley, Woking, Surrey.
  • 8th September - Flower and Vegetable Show, Penkford School, Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside.
  • 9th September - Surrey Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society Show, Toyota Head Office, Great Burgh, Epsom, Surrey.
  • 9th September - Preston Hall Open Gardens Day, Preston Hall, near Pathhead, Midlothian.
  • 13th September - Organic Gardening Lecture by Bob Flowerdew, University of Bristol Botanic Garden, Stoke Bishop, Bristol.
  • 14th to 16th September - Harrogate Autumn Flower Show, Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
  • 15th September - Big Dig Open Gardens Day, various locations in and around Manchester, Sheffield, London, Brighton, Coventry and Middlesbrough.
  • 15th September - Trees For Small Gardens Talk, Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, Cambridge.
  • 15th & 16th September - Chrysanthemum Show, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire.
  • 15th & 16th September - Michaelmas Daisy Weekend, Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley, Oxfordshire.
  • 16th September - Plant Hunters' Fair, Sugnall Hall, near Eccleshall, Staffordshire.
  • 25th September - 'The Olympic Park' Talk, Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Sheffield.
  • 29th & 30th September - Malvern Autumn Show, Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire.