Umbellifers are riding high and three white annual umbellifers (Orlaya grandiflora, Ammi majus and A. visnaga) are best sown now because they need a cold period of roughly three months before germinating. Prick them out into individual pots (three inches) next February or March and plant them out in April to produce robust plants. There’s also a lovely black-flowered carrot -Daucus carota ‘Black Knight’. ( www.sarahraven.co.uk/ 0845 092 0283 )
Plant daffodils, alliums and all other bulbs (except tulips)so that develop good root systems. Tulips wait for cooler weather, from the end of October onwards, to discourage a fungal disease called Tulip fire (Botrytis tulipae). Buy in bulk ( 50s upwards) from a supplier such as Peter Nyssen (www.peternyssen.com /0161 747 4000). This is cost effective and better on the eye.
Sow winter salad
Sow winter salads nowand grow them in a sheltered place, in a large pot or in the greenhouse as a follow up act for tomatoes. Rocket, which doesn’t bolt in low temperatures, will give months of leaf. Winter lettuces, endives, chicory, mizuna, spinach and salad mixes also develop slowly in lower temperatures. Sow the seeds now, prick out into 6 x 4 modular trays and then plant out when ready. Mr Fothergill’s (www.mr-fothergills.co.uk /0845 371 0518) have a good-value autumn and winter seed selection (46181) of seven packets, a spicy mix with mizuna and mustard (16812) and a milder version.(14507).
If you love peonies this is the time to order bare-root for October planting. October is also the perfect month to either move, or divide. Place the tuberous roots two inches below the soil surface so that the winter chill can reach them to promote flower buds. Any deeper and they will fail to flower. (www.kelways.co.uk /01458 250 521)
Note which perennials need dividing
With wetter winters becoming the norm it’s best to divide perennials in spring, but do make a note now of which ones need doing.
Order bare-root roses
Bare-root planting takes place when woody plants are dormant, so there is far less stress and the plants are cheaper to buy and post. Order roses now for late-autumn dispatch. ( Peter Beales (www.classicroses.co.uk / 01953 454707). Fruit trees can also be acquired, but always use a specialist like Blackmoor Nurseries (www.blackmoor.co.uk / 01420 477978). If unsure, ask their advice about what to plant. Prepare your ground now, but only plant in clement weather.
Ease off watering and feeding
Ease off the watering and feeding of pot-grown agapanthus and tender plants ( such as succulents or salvias) because drier plants overwinter better.
Keep deadheading roses, perennials and annuals to produce more flowers, because we get warmer autumns than we used to. Also remove spent heads of any prolific seed setters, such as aconitums and astrantias.
Tidy your topiary
Give your box a final winter tidy if you want crisp winter outlines, preferably on a wet day to prevent scorching. Remove all the debris and then feed afterwards with Vitax Q4.