Last friday I listed different plant and seed suppliers, but there are of course ways you can bulk up your stock of garden flowers for free. By propagation. Which sounds vaguely scary and scientific and necessitating greenhouses and dibbers and Mr Titchmarch style know-how. Whilst, of course, there are many books and websites that will explain much better than I how to do the more technical forms of propagation - by taking root or leaf cuttings for example - I want to simply remind of you of two completely straightforward methods, easy enough for kids to do but really effective and quick, requiring no more than a trowel and spade.
This is the perfect time of year to collect seed from the flowers you already have in your garden. Go and look really close and you will see that amongst the browning petals or seedpods, squillions of little seeds are growing. Just wait until they are nice and brown/black and dry, and they will be perfect for collecting. They need to be collected before the first frost.
Avoid collecting when they are still green or rain damp, just hold your horses until they are really dry and black. Then simply scatter straight into the ground, as nature would (casting a little compost over the top for good measure), exactly where you want them to grow next spring. If you do this, I would advise watering the ground first to stop the seed blowing away, and avoiding them being washed in all directions which is what always seems to happen if you water afterwards. Alternatively, pop them in paper bags or envelopes, label and plant out next year when the frosts are over. Don't bung in plastic bags or containers they will just sweat and rot. Yuck. Until spring just keep them in a dry, cool environment away from mice. Plants that produce easy-to-collect seed and propagate well like this in my garden are: poppies, bupleurum, nigella, ammi, marigolds, sunflowers and hollyhocks. I'd love to hear what has worked well for you in your gardens? For more detailed advice, click here.
The other early autumn job that we can all do next month is dig up the well-established herbaceous perennial plants we want more of, being careful not to damage the roots as they come out of the ground, and then split them up with a sharp spade if need be, throwing away any dead woody material and immediately replant the sections for lots of lovely new plants next spring. Some plant roots will just tease apart, others need cutting. It seems brutal, but works a total treat, and many plants actually need it to stay perky over the years.
Plants that have worked really well for me, divided and re-divided over the years are:
hardy geraniums, knautia, echinacea, nepeta, alchemilla mollis, anemones.
There are some plants that hate disturbance so do leave roses and peonies well alone or they will most likely pop their clogs. For more detailed advice on division of perennials and a video to show how it is done, check this BBC website or the very useful RHS site.
Have fun this last long weekend of summer. I plan to be at the seaside, watching my boys play cricket and attending my cousin's wedding party. Hoping the rain stays away. What are you up to? xxx