Now is a time for quiet reflection in the garden, says St Albans gardener Deborah Catchpole

WITH autumn snapping hard on my heels, I began to feel that the long, hazy days of summer, of which we had surprisingly few, were behind me.

It would seem that I was wrong. A couple of weekends ago, I found myself sitting, with the sun on my face, in the grounds of Capel Manor College in Enfield. Even though it is just on the doorstep, I’d never been before, and couldn’t believe the eclectic mix of different styles of garden on display.

It was like going to the Chelsea Flower Show, but being able to walk into the garden, and sit awhile, and really take in the planting scheme, without the constant jostle of people moving you on.

It was so easy to take inspiration for my own garden. I am both blessed and cursed to have a tiny cottage garden. Blessed by the well-established trees and shrubs that I inherited when I moved in, but cursed by the size which limits my imagination. I garden it like a traditional cottage garden – with the plants that I like, rather than the ones that necessarily “go” next to each other.

When I buy packets of seeds, I mix them all up, and scatter them with careless abandon, to create an effect of nature having taken hold, rather than neat and tidy borders.

Nonetheless, there is always something which needs to be done in my garden, and even though it is small, it gives me hours of enjoyment and keeps me busy throughout the year.

My imagination truly ran wild at Capel Manor. Glasshouses full to bursting, a hothouse full of cacti of all different varieties, and varying gardens, exhibiting different styles of garden full of ideas to be transferred to your own garden at home – no matter what size – there was something for everyone.

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I found one particularly quiet garden and sat with my thoughts. I watched as the ornamental grasses fringing the garden danced in the late afternoon breeze. A breeze which carried to me the last breaths of summer.

I drank in those drops of sunshine – a memory to carry me through the cold days to come. I’ve got bulb planting ahead of me – days of numb fingers and an aching lower back, but I long for those days.

My fingers are itching to get stuck into the cold soil, my fingerless gloves are ready and waiting. I know that it will all be worth it – when the colour of spring bursts through the ground in the early New Year.

I find that at this time of the year, some people find the garden to be a bit of a dull place – when most of the jobs that need to be done are “housekeeping” jobs, cutting things back, tidying the borders, and preparing to “shut down” the garden for over winter – but if we see each of these tasks as being all part of the cycle, enabling the wonderful flowers that will come when the days start to lengthen again, then it seems a little easier.

My day spent at Capel Manor not only showed me that the summer hasn’t quite yet gone, but that there are so many different things that you can do with the space you have – whether it’s a small cottage garden like mine, or rolling acres.

Now that I’m back in my own garden, I’ve been looking around at where I could put some ornamental grasses to add some desperately needed height and movement to the garden.

I’m also dreaming of recreating the little folly, covered with wisteria, which although it had finished flowering, I will go back to visit next summer, and I know that the smell will be divine.

That will be next year though, and for now, there are lots of things that I need to get done before October is out.

There are plenty of jobs to be getting on with this month:

- Make sure you have tidied everything away for the winter – it might look bare, but it will be ready for the spring;

- Get your spring bulbs in – it’s a long job but it’s so rewarding;

- Plant up any pots of bulbs that you want to give as Christmas presents;

- Don’t forget to bring in any plants which won’t survive the frost.