Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Developing Chrysanthemums, Preparing Hyacinths and Narcissus

September is one of my favourite months of the year, it’s often warm and settled for part of the month, despite what may have gone before and the days often still, with barely a breeze. As you can see from the picture, the wet summer encouraged extraordinary amounts of new growth on my cordon and espalier apples, extending the growing season considerably; they are usually summer pruned from the end of July to mid August, when new side shoots are cut back to three shoots above the base and those from existing fruiting ‘spurs’ back to one bud to stimulate the production of new fruit buds. This year I’m waiting until early September to prune, once growth has stopped. The great advantage with growing cordons and espaliers is that they are easy to manage – much easier than growing larger trees and infinitely more suitable for gardens where space is limited.

It’s also the time of year to protect developing buds and flowers of chrysanthemums by trapping earwigs in upturned flowerpots filled with hay that are put on top of a cane. Earwigs nibble on the blooms at night and crawl into the flowerpots to hide during the day. Check your pot traps daily, remove the earwigs, then replace them ready for the following night. It’s a fine traditional method that works very well.

It’s also time to plant prepared bulbs like hyacinths and narcissus for a winter indoor display. They are usually planted in pots without holes in the bottom, (unlike most other pots that do!) so put a layer of crocks or grit in the bottom for drainage. Plant them in bulb fibre or good potting compost and pack the pot with bulbs, leaving a gap between the compost and the top of the pot near the top. Hyacinths should be covered leaving the tops just visible above the compost surface. It takes up to 14 weeks before flowering, so leave them in cool, moist, dark conditions, check them regularly and put the pot on a bright, cool windowsill when the new shoots appear.

I’m aiming to have a clear out of some of the plastic pots in my shed, there seems to be too many stacked in corners waiting for plants, which never appear. I picked up a few larger post at my local authority recycling plant recently of a size I don’t have, so I know that I can return a few. Local nurseries, allotments and gardening charities may welcome smaller pots for ‘growing on’. Larger pots are ideal for ornamental displays and can be sprayed different colours that can be changed at will, something I have done regularly over the years. Bold oranges, yellows, deep purples and rich red flowers contrast well with black plastic pots, they may not be ornamental but at least they can be obscured with trailing plants. Polystyrene trays can be broken up and recycled as drainage material in the bottom of containers; I’ve heard some gardeners compare this to luxury accommodation for ‘vine weevils’, though I’ve never had any problems – yet! Happy gardening!