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I’ve planted everything purchased to date; every scrotty seedling has been committed to the ground or potted on for the future. I am not going to buy a single plant until 2016. Oh wait, the garden shops are holding their autumn sales. I didn’t intend to cross their threshold, far less load up with battered shrubs and tattered perennials. I drove down the Preston Road at high speed with my eyes shut, so as to resist the blandishments of my favourite nurseries. I meandered along the back streets trying to forget that here were great deals in previous years. None of it has worked and the courtyard is pocked with evidence of my enthusiasm once more.
Begonia 'Connie Boswell' in the conservatory
Begonia ‘Connie Boswell’ in the conservatory

Sooty’s is selling off containers in a dizzying selection of size, shape and colour at half price. Frost proof pots cost more than their fragile kindred but that makes sense as they don’t fall into shards at the first nip of ice. Huge tubs may be beyond your reach early in the season but could now be so reduced that it would be rude not to dip into your purse. Once your offspring are old enough to walk, they can carry anything which won’t fit in the trolley. If the lump of terracotta is very large it will sit on the back seat of the car and your children can make their own way home. Since they do no gardening, the exercise will be good for them.
Passiflora caerulea (blue passion flower) fruit
Passiflora caerulea (blue passion flower) fruit

Don’t be inveigled into acquiring annuals, even if they boast a few spreedy flowers; these are hanging on by their fingertips and will dissolve into mush in a few weeks. Hardy perennials however, are well worth your investment. Provided that there is some sign of life, a cheap purchase now should spring back into vigour next year. If it’s too bitter, roots will not get a grip before the worst of winter descends. In this case sink the specimen in the soil, somewhere sheltered, still in its pot and level with the compost therein. Don’t forget the poor creature, it will need your attention once re-growth gets underway. I bought a cheap Wisteria which I’m going to bonsai, having been smitten by a picture on Pinterest. Don’t settle for a non-grafted type, since these will be unlikely to bloom. Without millennia of Japanese culture to back me up, I fear that mine will struggle but I’m going to give it a go.
Rain drenched Asparagus
Rain drenched Asparagus

Seeds are on offer at full price but I find that pawing over the packets keeps my fervour warm during the cold months. If you’re a beginner, don’t start with anything difficult. Tropicals will germinate but require bottom heat from a propagator and/or stratifying at carefully monitored temperatures. The latter just means breaking dormancy with chill but you’re into fussy territory of trays filled with soil in the fridge. This is hazardous at the best of times but if you share your living space and culinary arrangements with teenagers, you may be best waiting until they leave for university. Despite their insanitary kitchen habits and complete lack of horticultural interest, they might marry; in this case, they are someone else’s problem entirely.

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