Weekend work: Time to cut back herbaceous perennials


What to do

Cut back the dying stems of herbaceous perennials and compost them. Do not cut back penstemons. These should be left until March. Cutting back now will encourage fresh young growth which will most likely be clobbered by frost.

Now is an ideal time to shift plants about in the garden. It is easier to move herbaceous plants if you reduce some of their top hamper first. Dig them a comfortable hole and fork up the bottom of it so that the roots do not have a battle to get started. I always put bonemeal in the hole as a bribe. I have been shifting self-seeded plants of foxglove, verbascum and Verbena bonariensis to more suitable homes and none show signs yet of flagging.

Pick late-keeping apples for eating over Christmas and the New Year. Store them separately from early and mid-season apples. The ethylene gas given off by ripe earlier fruit will hurry the late ones on too much and they will deteriorate.

Stop watering tuberous begonias and gloxinias in pots so that they die down naturally. Store the tubers for the winter in a cool, dry place. Flowers of sulphur dusted over them will help prevent mould.

What to see

Plan a quick trip over the Channel to visit the Courson autumn show (and weep that here in Britain, we can't put on anything half as stylish). With 250 exhibitors of plants, books and sundries, it runs from 18-20 October at the Domaine de Courson, 91680 Courson-Monteloup (Essonne), admission €17. The theme this year is 'Blowing in the Wind'.