A mini Indian summer is better than none.
The verdict follows a few days of warmth that had lawns dry enough to mow, a resurgence of bloom in the borders and a rush of ripened fruit on the autumn raspberries.
Temperatures touching 20C are very acceptable in mid-October, but we must stay focused, it never lasts long.
Grabbing the opportunity to mow lawns has an instant positive effect. In recent years the mower has been on standby, rather than in store. A trim in late November or early February, weather permitting, takes away the ragged appearance.
Ornamental plants can also be relied on to spring a few unseasonal surprises as weather patterns change.
Plants behaving out of character because of changing environmental conditions is becoming a regular occurrence. Repeat flowering without the encouragement of cutting back after a main display is something we’re becoming used to.
This happened recently with a dwarf lilac called Sevvie, a gift from a keen golfing friend more than a decade ago. It flowered in May/June as anticipated, then greeted September with a new burst of colour.
There’s no time for a repeat performance from Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn. The books will tell you that it blooms continuously from late autumn to spring, which was always the case, but in recent years the first flower clusters have opened in early August.
It’s two years since friend Roger mentioned the campsis (Chinese trumpet vine) he was growing against a west-facing fence in a sheltered part of the garden. Although this deciduous perennial is listed as hardy, it does struggle in an open situation here in the North. Roger’s plant has clearly been encouraged into bloom by the recent warmth, as the image I received last week confirmed.
Late raspberries have similarly gained from the mini-summer. Just before last week’s blast of wind, the lady of the house picked a bowlful of large fruit so there’s still potential going into November.
A caller on our Lionheart Radio Weekending Show (Saturday afternoons) asked when to prune his autumn fruiting raspberries and by how much. The answer given was what works for me: “As soon as you’re sure that the harvest is truly over, cut every cane to ground level as you would herbaceous perennials in the flower border.”
New canes emerge from the rootstock early next year and will have grown almost 2m high and be bearing fruit by September.
Now’s the time to organise organic mulch for all fruit trees and bushes with next year’s performance in mind.