Now autumn has definitely arrived in the garden. Last night the first mists were curling across the lanes and this morning, a definite hint of chill in the air. We have our last open day at the Thrive garden today, and although the sky is grey, the garden is thronging with people. And, although there is still plenty in flower in the gardens and the leaves are turning but not yet falling, you can feel we are moving into the season of settling down for the winter.
Although we tend to think of seeds (and sowing) as a spring activity, autumn is also a good time for seeds. There are seeds that benefit from an autumn sowing; sweet peas and broad beans can be sown in pot and over wintered to give them a head start in the spring – (broad beans are also a great option for people who have trouble with managing small seeds - they are also great seeds for cutting open to explore what a seed is made of). But this time of the year I love looking at the architectural structure of the seed heads that start to dominate the garden as everything else dies back and marveling at the different mechanisms that have evolved for dispersing seeds. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to cut these down! You can justify this to anyone who asks since they are great fodder for wild life. Once the frosts arrive they provide wonderful structure outlined in silver.
If you do want to clear them away, then think about collecting the seeds – this can be a great therapeutic activity. For the more able, you can make presents by creating and decorating your own seed packets and filling them with seeds you have gathered from your own garden (just remember they probably won’t breed true but you may get some exciting variations, depending on the parent plants), for the less able, collecting different kinds of seeds and seed heads can be a interesting focus for a walk around the garden –simple things like crab apples, acorns and conkers can be excellent triggers for reminiscing. Or try collecting seed heads to hang in a secluded corner to feed the birds – or add them to a collection of leaves and old wood as part of a “bug house” to encourage useful insects to overwinter in the garden.
But best of all, make sure you get out into the garden on a quiet morning, in the autumn sunshine and admire how your garden grows. In all its seasons.