Most partners of keen gardeners are breathing a sigh of relief that the closing stages of the season bring an end to the assaults on the bank account. It’s up to you, whether you allow them to labour under a false sense of security, or disabuse them of financial security and threaten them with the poor house. If you guarantee bankruptcy in advance, then your modest raids on the family purse will seem completely reasonable by comparison. Better perhaps not to go overboard by telling them that you are saving money in the long run, you will only make them mad. Got your cash, plastic, negotiable assets to hand? Let’s go shopping.
Passiflora “Purple Haze” in the conservatory
Garner perennials and ceramic containers in the autumn sales. The stores will be clearing out the shelves, ready for the December refill and there are bargains to be acquired, buying collections of sticks that look sorely tatty now but will sprout into leaf next year. Pots of blackened annuals will never re-grow; the Heimlich Manoeuvre will not breathe life into Petunias and CPR will not bring Begonias back from the dead. Ignore them with a lofty sniff of contempt. Spring blooming bulbs are currently piled in bright heaps of luscious temptation. Get as many as you can carry and may persuade your partner to plant. Generally try to use nurseries rather than garden centres. The prices are better and you can get a coffee, some biscuits and a bathroom break when you get home. No-one needs puce painted planters shaped like boots or bicycles. If you purchase anything with a face on it, particularly with googly eyes, I will find out where you live.
Autumn sunshine under the cherry tree
Don’t fill the car up with so much that you can’t get it planted or for which you have no more room. Work out what you’re good at and if necessary, train yourself on a cheap £1 Auricula and get it right, before spending £50 at a specialist grower. I’m sick of hearing “right plant, right place” but this is an entirely accurate summation. You can’t grow Eryngium (sea holly) in a dingy swamp, or Tricytis (toad lily) in sun blasted sand. If you try they will die, sometimes overnight. If your spectacular great deal is not hardy, you’ll have to overwinter it frost free. Until I got a conservatory, I kept my tender cactus collection in the spare room for ten years, in the face of visitors’ bleating about the spines. I don’t grow tree ferns or bananas. If you do, you’ll have to bring them under cover or wrap them in fleece, like untidy infants or last minute Xmas presents.
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Buy seeds and keep them dark and cool until ready for use. I stash mine with packets of silica gel to keep them dry. Go for easy to germinate species, until you are practiced. You’ll get a splash of colour and scent for a few quid. Sow some hardy annuals now, such as Nigella (love in a mist), Ammi (bishop’s flower) and Orlaya (Minoan lace) for bigger, stronger plants and better flowers. Start off the other half of the packet in spring, for a succession of blossom. You would have scant respect for me, were I to leave a stone unturned in pursuit of something sensational. I am ransacking the local shops, taking no prisoners in the pursuit of a snip. I tell Attila that he should buy my gifts for the next twelve months at rock bottom prices and promise that by filling the garage now, he will be staying solvent for the foreseeable future. I’ve always been an inveterate over-egger of puddings.