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Spalding area gardener Mark Cox talks about autumn planting

In his latest Out in Garden column, Mark Cox talks about autumn planting.

It was Wednesday at 10.30am when the Cox household fell silent. I needed the silence to properly focus my immense intellect. I had spent several days in deep meditation to attune my hearing to the radio.

I could easily have replaced a sonar operator on a nuclear submarine. Certainly I could have identified that there was another submarine behind me that sank the trawler in the opening scene of Vigil…..

Erica (51261559)
Erica (51261559)

I was trying to control my breathing but my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I just needed to answer one more question correctly and I would smash my Pop Master score.

“Here’s your last question,” Ken said. “Complete the Abba song title, M.” Then the radio fell silent.At first I thought he was just building tension then I realised that it wasn’t tension but in fact a power cut. Thinking on my feet, or in actual fact my bottom because I was sat down, I headed to my potting shed – home of my ancient battery-powered radio. Sadly by the time it powered up Pop Master had finished and Queen’s Flash was playing.

With “Dispatch rocket Ajax to bring back Gordons body” echoing in my ears I decided to plant up an autumnal container to calm myself down. There’s something about getting dirt under my fingernails that I find relaxing. To be fair my summer containers were now looking past their best so a refresh was needed anyway.

I love Cyclamen in the autumn as I think their tall delicate stems and flowers with large ornamental leaves look beautiful set against heathers such as Erica Carnea with their purple and pink flowers.

The great thing about heather is that it never fails to provide height and structure to a planter. They form a perfect backdrop in which the other plants can shine. To soften the edge of the planter, I like to use ivy. As it grows, it cascades effortlessly over the edge. Now I always have a selection of planters lying around the shed and only a few weeks ago I’d purchased a couple of half barrels just for this autumn planter.

As with all planted containers, it is essential to ensure that the container has good drainage. So to that end I placed some broken earthenware pots into the base of the container. O nto the top of the broken pots I added enough specialist basket and container compost to fill the container to about 2ins/5cm below the top of the pot. At Baytree we carry Westland Basket and Container Mix which is perfect for this job.

You need to make some artistic decisions at this point as to which part of the container is going to be the front and which is going to be the back.

Using my hand I simply made a couple of holes for the heathers to go into – these would be my background plants. To help them to establish I gently teased some of the roots out from the main root ball. Be careful with this and less is more.

In front of the heathers I planted my cyclamen and continued them almost to the front of the container. I left room at the very front of the container for the ivy to be planted into. I thought it needed something else so I added a some winter-flowering pansies to the mix.

Mamma Mia, when it was finished it looked brilliant.

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