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Shades of Autumn in September


September has flown by as usual and the heavy rain over the last few days has been a welcome relief for the gardens. Prior to that we had no rain for the entire month and things were getting very stressed. I think it has brought on an early autumn for some of our trees as there is already a distinct change in colour. I do worry about the coming winter and the impending storms, and we are in the process of a general tidy up and tying down anything that could be damaged by high winds.

With the cooling temperatures comes a welcome change, as things start to slow down and we get the opportunity to move from a lot of our regular maintenance jobs to more seasonal work and specific projects. One of this year’s projects is the Carnivorous Courtyard, a garden of carnivorous plants to be located adjacent to the Poison Garden. We are well into the construction phase and I’m expecting a delivery of large stone troughs in the next few days which will be positioned in the garden to display some of the more unusual residents. I can’t wait to see it planted up next spring.

We just received our main bulb delivery and have begun planting. We have our usual range of tulips, hyacinths and a few more unusual species for the herbaceous border and poison garden and some more narcissus and alliums for naturalising in the grass areas along the riverbanks and opposite the new toilets and cafe building. I much prefer to use bulbs that will settle in and spread, as they represent much better value for money. We have had great success with woodland anemones and bluebells on some of our walks and we will keep adding to this every year.

Our apples have been picked and we have made our usual organic apple juice which we will be selling in the cafe and shop. It has proved to be very popular with the tourists and locals. This year we also had our first cider apple harvest and I’m delighted to say that we have 200 litres of cider bubbling away in our apple shed. It won’t be available to the general public this time, but we may offer a few samples at the season ticket holders Christmas get together.

Pick apples and pears as they ripen, and store them in trays with shredded newspaper, straw or cardboard liners. For storage the temperature needs to be cool but not frosty. Most homes will be too warm so it’s better to store them in a shed or garage, as long as they are rodent-proof. Windfall or bruised fruit is better used in desserts, jams or wine making.

This is traditionally the time for cutting back, tidying and preparing for the winter. We are in the middle of a deep clean of our glasshouses, which is a huge job. We are taking the opportunity to freshen up all the walls with a new lime render which is going to really make the place look new and bright. I have started to watch the overnight temperatures, and we have already started to move some of our tender specimen plants from the Jungle Border and Fern Garden into their winter homes in our glasshouse and poly tunnel.

Winter bedding will be planted out over the next few weeks. We use a lot of pansy and viola as I find them to be the most reliable in our unpredictable climate. Skimmias provide a good Christmassy look with their red berries and we are trying some red and white cyclamen around the main entrance beds. We generally mix in a few other things such as ornamental heathers, variegated ivy and small cordylines just to add to the interest and brighten up the beds over the duller months.

Jobs for October include, tie in and cutting back of raspberry and loganberry canes if you haven’t already, bulb planting around the garden, apply autumn fertiliser to lawns, lift and divide herbaceous plants if you need to, and cut them back as they die down, stop feeding indoor plants now, tidy up beds, borders and glasshouses and make plans for next year.

I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam

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