The shorter autumn days although sunny and warm do make longer shadows and in some gardens there will surely be corners where the ground will never have direct sunlight until the sun is high in the sky once again. This of course will dictate what you plant during the low season, I hate calling it winter because we hardly recognise winter in the Mediterranean climate, yes there are cool even cold nights but one often enjoys a garden or to be outdoors during these coming months every bit as much as the summer, sometimes even more so. With this in mind we need to consider what to plant in some corners that will not see direct sunlight at all, up against a north facing wall for example.
What can you plant there?
Don’t think that root vegetables will survive, even though your Beetroot, Carrots and Potatoes thrive under ground, in the dark, their green tops need the sunlight. Encourage small shrubs that will soon grow tall enough to look over the garden wall.
I can’t help myself always referring to the lawn which is still needing cutting although a lawn on the north side of any house may well be finding itself in full shade nearly all day long. The grass will be more sparse but there will be other advantages for not needing to cut so frequently. Remember to look every day for mushrooms if you have the variety that are edible, there is no need to go scrambling up the mountainside if your own lawn produces a few.
Another thing about a lawn is that during the winter months sometimes wild Jonquils will grow or you can even plant others of the Daffodil family or even Snowdrops. Soon these bulbs will be showing their first green shoots so no way do we want to need to cut the lawn then or chop these delicate new winter plants off before they have even got going. On the subject of bulbs, now really is the time to start planting up new spring flowering bulbs. What can be found in the shops is often a good indication or reminder of such things. Just this week for example some supermarket gardening shelves have had packets of Hyacinth and different variety of Daffodil some of which have cost as little as under 2€ for a pack of a dozen or more Dutch spring bulbs. One surely can’t expect a better bargain than that so keep your eyes out for these offers!
Along with the ‘no cutting’ of the lawn will of course come the dreaded Oxalis weed, that really is a terror to keep under control so just keep pulling it up root and all if you can. It is said that to eliminate it all before Christmas helps eradicate it altogether but I admit I have never achieved that. Unfortunately with its pretty flower all along the roadside it looks lovely so is no wonder it self seeds into our gardens. It has a leaf like a Shamrock and is actually of that family so do we need to look for the four leaves for good luck? All I want is to get rid of it from my lawn.
Osteospermum / African daisy is a good all year round plant to have in a flower border, it prefers a sunny aspect and will have flowers nearly all the year round. It could do with a good cutting back now if you have mature plants otherwise they become untidy and almost to be considered invasive. There will be masses of seedlings in amongst the mature stems so pull them up carefully if you want to transplant any. You will see new growth all along the stems of the existing plants so cut back to any length you want and they will sprout again from these little shoots. Leave some long mature growth on the plant if you want to have a few flowers and a little colour in the garden all winter. Another plant that seems to know no season is the Geranium. This really hardy plant does well in pots or directly in the ground and just goes on for ever. Take cuttings of your favourite colours and pop them in the ground to encourage new roots, they do just as well in shade as in direct sunlight. It does have that one predator, the little grey butterfly. That devil lays its eggs in the leaf joints where the hatching larvae burrow into the stems of the Geranium making nasty black holes and eventually the top growth of the plant dying back. There is a pesticide in the shops just for this plague, to be sprayed over the plant and especially on the stems to try and discourage the butterfly.
I always like to mention trees and shrubs at some time or other. Brugmansias are making a lot of new growth and some varieties like Dutura/Frosty Dawn already has healthy flower buds soon to open as what we know as Angel’s Trumpets. Some varieties have an upstanding white trumpet shaped flower, hence its popular name. Others like Frosty Dawn have a pinkish tinge with the flowers all hanging downwards like bells. No matter which, it is encouraging to see trees in flower at this time of the year. This is a tree that can be kept at shrub level and does well in a pot on a patio.
A self seeded Acacia has sneaked in over my garden wall and besides its pretty feathery leaves now has bunches of little puff-ball yellow flowers. In just one season this sapling has grown at least ten feet tall so I can see I am going to have to keep this intruder in hand. Pruning trees and shrubs is very important but I admit it is very difficult having to cut off half a tree just to stop it taking over the place when it is looking happy just as it is.
Dorothy's Top Tips
· Remember to look every day for mushrooms if you have the variety that are edible, there is no need to go scrambling up the mountainside if your own lawn produces a few.
· The African daisy is a good all year round plant to have in a flower border, it prefers a sunny aspect and will have flowers nearly all the year round.