Autumn shades in September

Autumn shades in September

September has passed by in a flash, and autumn has definitely arrived. Over the last few days, I’m seeing cooler, misty mornings, dew-laden grass and the first colour changes amongst the trees. The beech and birch have been the first to change, with shades of yellow and orange beginning to creep into the woodland canopies. I love to watch the changing tapestry of colours as our arboretums and woodlands adjust to the changing season. There’s a sense of change everywhere, the animals sense it too and the starlings are starting to gather in the treetops, squirrels are out foraging, and my two cats are staring through the kitchen window every morning, eager to get in out of the cold and wet.

Our apples and other fruit have been picked and harvested and we have made our usual organic apple juice, ice creams and jams which we will be selling in the cafe and shop. It has all proved to be very popular with the tourists and locals. For the second year running, we were hit by late frosts, which halved our apple harvest, so we will only be producing around 60 litres of cider this year which will make it even more in demand.

This is traditionally the time for cutting back, tidying, and preparing for the winter. 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 polytunnel. Our large potted cacti are the first to go in. These distinctive rounded barrel cactus have the memorable name of ‘mother-in-law’s cushion.

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. Although we use a certain amount of what I would term ‘bedding bulbs’ I much prefer to use bulbs that can survive in our climate and 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.

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. 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 tying in and cutting back raspberry and loganberry canes if you haven’t already, bulb planting around the garden, applying autumn fertiliser to lawns, lifting and dividing herbaceous plants if you need to, and cutting them back as they die down, stop feeding indoor plants now, tidy up beds, borders and glasshouses and make plans for next year.

There is still some good late summer colour in the borders, and this will soon be followed by the autumn show. I look forward to seeing you in the gardens.