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Your garden in October: Sean Murray’s tips for North East gardeners

As the warm sunny days gradually give way to shorter daylight hours and mornings with a real nip in the North East air, my thoughts eagerly turn to reminders of summer.

The sight of sunflowers can lift your spirits as part of your gardens late autumn crescendo of colour.

Sunflowers are fast growing, and easy to grow requiring full sun, fertile moist but well drained soil. They give you maximum impact for minimal work and can be the star performers in an autumn planting design.

Sunflowers make up the group Helianthus of which there are about 67 species, they are native to the Americas and have helped shaped man’s history through the ages where they have been developed for medicine, food, dyes and oils.

They have been in cultivation for over 1000 years. Captured in iconic form by Van Gogh’s series of sunflower paintings they have more recently been used to extract toxins such as uranium form the soil around the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.

Some of my favourite cultivars grown from seed are:- Helianthus Annuus ‘Earth Walker’ which has bronze, yellow and chocolate brown shades.

Italian white has large creamy white flowers with chocolate centres, great for flower arranging.

Allow the flower heads to remain on the stems and you will have large nodding seed heads adding interest and texture to your winter scene, a great source of food for birds too

The Teddy Bear variety only grows to 18” and it makes me smile with each passing glance as it stretches its little open childlike face up to greet me at the edge of my border.

Great planting companions include Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus Tuberosus) with their small sunflower like heads. From the same genius they have a similar form and although invasive they make a fantastic wind break in exposed areas and unlike potatoes their tasty tubers can be left in the ground and harvested throughout the winter as required. There is no need to buy new tubers each year, just leave a few in the ground after harvesting and away they go again.

Innla Magnifica looks great with sunflowers says Sean Murray

If you have room Innula magnifica also looks amazing drifted amongst sunflowers. A huge perennial with massive arrow shaped leaves, shaggy orange daisy like flowers and formidable stem structure to grace you border over winter.

Think about how you can make space for sunflowers in your planting for next year and order your seeds from the many seed catalogues available. Just think this time next year you will have your own blast of autumn sunshine. You won’t be disappointed.

Sean Murray runs a garden design company based in Ashington, Northumberland, www.gardennarratives.co.uk

Jerusalem Artichokes

Article source: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/property-news/your-garden-october-sean-murrays-10157166