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The Gardening Coach: October

PUBLISHED: 11:38 07 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:38 07 October 2014

Boulders supress weeds, keep moisture in the soil and create year-round drama

Boulders supress weeds, keep moisture in the soil and create year-round drama


Judy Shardlow looks at elements to create a beautiful yet low maintenance garden

Low maintenance gardening can be a controversial subject in gardening design. Luciano Guibbilei, designer of the Laurent Perrier Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, which won Gold and Best in Show, is very clear on the subject: ‘The low maintenance garden doesn’t exist. It’s impossible.’ And he has a point. Creating a balance between low maintenance and the beauty of a constantly changing garden is challenging, but not impossible.

Nature-inspired gardens can offer a much easier maintenance routine than beautifully sculpted ones. A pebble border is a good example. Boulders and pebbles supress weeds, keep moisture in the soil and create year-round drama and interest. The trick is to use a variety of large boulders, river pebbles and gravel in a way that mimics the drifts, flows and accumulations of stones that you see at the river’s edge or on a stony beach. Pebbles are also a great foil for small evergreen grasses and low creeping plants like ajuga reptans or sedum spurium ‘Voodoo’. And for me, the most compelling feature of a pebble border is its beauty – water transforms it into a rainbow of colours and delicate markings. It’s the perfect option for gardening in a wet climate.

October gardening tips

Plant clematis Try the beautiful repeat-flowering white clematis, ‘Marie Boisselot’. In a sheltered spot it can flower in December.

Protect half-hardy plants Wrap Banaba plants and tree ferns to protect them from cold and wet. Other perennials such as melianthus major (Honey Bush) and zantedeschia (Arum Lily) can be protected with a straw or compost mulch.

Plant containers for winter colour with pretty long-flowering pansies, violas, primroses and cyclamen. And don’t forget to tuck a few tulips, snowdrops and iris reticulata bulbs in for spring.

Aerate your lawn by removing plugs of turf with a hollow tine aerator. It’s a tough job, but worthwhile, particularly on compacted clay lawns.

Collect damp leaves in plastic garden bags and tuck them behind the shed. They will transform into a wonderful soil conditioner within 12-24 months.

Judy Shardlow is a Herts-based gardening coach

01438 833858


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