As we reach October, with the days growing noticeably shorter and a definite chill in the air, it’s good to think about what we can do to make the winter months easier for these and other beneficial garden visitors. With the soil still warm, this is a great month for planting new shrubs and perennials so, as you consider what you’d like to add, maybe spare a thought for our garden wildlife.
One of the best things about the October garden is the abundance of berried plants, which really come into their own at this time of year. The vibrant red, orange or yellow berries of Pyracantha are a wonderful addition to any autumn garden. These wonderful, climbing, evergreen shrubs will be full of colour now and are a magnet for birds and wildlife. Happy in sun but also tolerant of dry shade, you can grow Pyracantha as a hedge, a freestanding shrub or trained up a wall or fence.
The Buddleja is another shrub adored by wildlife. Plant one of these hardy shrubs now and, next summer, you’ll be rewarded with arching branches carrying abundant panicles of flowers which attract bees and butterflies. As far as perennials are concerned, Asters will flower into October and are a welcome source of pollen and nectar for any beneficial insects which are still active. Similarly, the nectar rich late flowers of Sedum are much loved by bees and butterflies.
Before you get too excited about planning this new wildlife haven though, there are one or two routine jobs to be done. Prune climbing Roses and ramblers and, if shrub Roses have grown a little tall, reduce their height a little to reduce risk of wind damage. Again, thinking about wildlife, as you finish cutting back late-flowering perennials, you may want to keep some of the more attractive seed heads intact, as they are valued greatly by birds and insects.
Empty faded container displays, removing old plants and compost, and replace with spring bulbs planted with autumn bedding on top. Plant an evergreen shrub in a pot which you can see from indoors; a Skimmia with red berries would be perfect for this.
Keep bird feeders topped up and enjoy the comings and goings!