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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Celebrating the best of Cumbria

WITH many hundreds of other people who work hard to promote pride in their communities, I went the 2012 Cumbria in Bloom presentation in Kendal last week (writes gardening columnist Toni Magean).

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Autumn-Flowering: Sedum Ruby Glow

It was quite a glittering affair, with the many civic mayors showing off their gold!

Following a recent “in bloom” questionnaire, we were informed that more than 470,000 hours of volunteer work was undertaken by the many bloom groups across Cumbria – a staggering statistic. Even at an hourly minimum wage this equates to nearly £3 million!

The reward for all this work was wonderful to see, as many communities received the Royal Horticultural Society Awards.

There were very few entries from the Copeland area this year, I suspect because the communities were not being as supported as in previous years. However, it was good to see Nether Wasdale receive an award, and I was particularly pleased to see Pica achieve an award as I was involved in helping the group establish itself, and worked hard in supporting them during their formative years.

The best overall entry was Dalton-in-Furness, who also achieved a clutch of other RHS awards. This was one of the towns I had the pleasure of judging this year.

In my own garden, most of my time has been spent on cutting back growth, which has either been damaged in the recent weather or the plant growth is naturally dying back to the crown. My shredder has been working overtime, but I have left some of the growth as I will be taking hardwood cuttings later in the year, in particular some of my roses and buddleias.

Many of my spring and summer perennials have been cut back to the crown. This has created spaces which I can gap up with a mixture of spring-flowering bulbs. Following all this cutting back, I also applied bonemeal fertiliser. It might seem strange to be applying a fertiliser at this time of year but you need to remember that they are still growing, even over the winter months, and the advantage of bonemeal is that it is slow to break down and to leach from the soil.

The lawn is starting to slow down, but getting on it to cut the grass can be challenging as it’s just been far too wet. However, autumn renovation works really need to be completed, so if you can get the grass cut, this needs to be followed by a good aerating by scarifying to remove the thatch, then a good spiking to help aerate the roots and improve drainage over the winter. This will be enhanced if you could also top dress with a lawn sand.

Finally, apply a lawn autumn/winter fertiliser; look for a lawn fertiliser which also contains iron, as this will kill the moss in your lawn. Your lawn might need cutting over the winter months, so get the mower serviced, lift the cutting height and cut the lawn as required to keep the grass topped and uniformed.

Last week I talked about plants which remind you of the time of year, well this week my sedums were certainly letting me know it’s autumn, particularly my Sedum spectabile “Brilliant” with its large heads of pink flowers, though it was the amount of butterflies and insects which were hovering around the flowers that attracted the eye.

It’s rather tropical-looking, but it’s tough as old boots and very easy to grow. It’s very easy to propagate by simply lifting the plant and splitting the rosette forming clumps. I do much prefer Sedum “Ruby Glow” which has red foliage and dark red flowers, deservedly an Award of Garden Merit winner.

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