All Change for Autumn

All Change for Autumn

September simply flew by, and autumn is on its way. I can see the colours starting to change in the trees, and cooler, dew laden mornings are becoming the norm. There’s a sense of change everywhere, the animals sense it too and the starlings are starting to gather in the treetops, the last of the swallows have headed off to warmer climes and the squirrels are busy foraging in our arboretums.

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. It’s been an exceptional year for apples, and we have had a bumper crop, which means we will be able to produce our first large batch of cider. It will also be available in the shop and café from next spring and I’m certain it will also be a hit with visitors.

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 begun to move some of our tender specimen plants from the Jungle Borders and the Fern Garden into their winter homes in our glasshouse and poly tunnel. Our large potted cacti were the first to go in. These distinctive rounded barrel cactus have the memorable name of ‘mother-in-law’s cushion’. They are extremely dramatic when placed through the rock garden but unfortunately our damp winters would prove fatal for them.

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. One exciting new project is our Irish Heritage Daffodil collection which will be displayed through our winter borders. I have just received a package containing 84 different varieties, many of which are extremely rare and very special. I can’t wait to see them in the spring.

Winter bedding will be planted out over the next few weeks. We are experimenting a little this year as it’s always a challenge to get good winter flowers in our unpredictable climate. We are going to use a lot more Heathers mixed with other filler plants that offer good foliage colour and structure. Skimmias provide a good Christmassy look with their red berries and we generally mix in a few other things such as assorted grasses, variegated ivy and small cordylines that will 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.

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. Adam