Purple and yellow posie step by step in October. Completed posie of Mahonia japonica, Verbena bonariensis, Miscanthus sinensis – Chinese silver grass, Garrya elliptica – silk tassel bush and Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’ – purple moor grass – © Nicola Stocken/GAP Photos
As autumn quickens, the garden slows and flowering comes to a halt. However, this restricted choice of flowers can be overcome with spontaneity and imagination.
What better cue for using ornamental grasses in a posie? There is a winsome charm in furry pennisetum spikelets, whilst sprays of Chinese silver grass or purple moor grass inject metallic glints amidst the gem-like colours of dahlias and asters.
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Feeding garden birds
is an incredibly satisfying hobby, but it often offers a lifeline to the recipients. There are multiple ways to provide food, and numerous different ingredients, too. Each method and component will attract its own species of bird, so you can lure specific creatures into your garden, if you so wish. Some, such as robins
, prefer to feed off the ground or from a table. Others, such as agile blue tits
, are happy to leap onto a hanging feeder for their feast. Nyjer seeds are a favourite food of goldfinches
, whereas windfall apples will be pecked with pleasure by blackbirds. And let’s not forget that some species, such as song thrushes, prefer snails to anything we offer them. Favoured garden visitors, indeed.
The simplest ideas are often the best. A string line threaded with apples or pears can be hung on a well-positioned branch, for example. Take things a step further and offer hollowed out coconuts, pendants of monkey nuts or upturned flower pots filled with suet-and-seed mixtures. A wedding cake-style tier of metal troughs, filled with a selection of dried fruits, nuts and fats, offers fine-dining options for your avian visitors. Or how about creating moulded seed cakes using disregarded tea cups or cookie cutters?
Storing apples, stored in wooden trays, with tissue to protect against rot transmission, in frost free shed – © Gary Smith/GAP Photos
Storing away your harvest has to be one of the most satisfying elements of growing your own food. Knowing that precious bounty is safely hoarded for you to consume through the leaner months brings a simple feeling of security. So how do you guarantee that one of our most favoured crops, the apple, lasts well into the winter?
Choosing a storable variety is key. Some apples, such as ‘Discovery’ won’t keep even into September, whereas others like ‘Pixie’ will sit, perfectly formed, well into the New Year. Bruised fruits won’t store because rots set into the damaged tissue. It’s therefore best to use up any blemished fruits quickly, or to slice and dry, or puree then freeze them.
Put aside your most perfect, unmarked apples for storage. A fruit store should be cool (but frost-free), humid yet airy – a shed or garage is ideal. Don’t keep your apples next to any strong smelling items such as pesticides, fuels or wood preservatives as they can absorb the aromas. Lay each apple, untouching, onto a wooden slatted tray. This allows air to flow freely around the fruits, and lets you see and remove any rotting apples rapidly. Consider rodent controls if they’re appropriate, and feel free to nestle each fruit in loosely packed straw or paper as this helps to absorb excess moisture.