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29 SEP

September hints at Autumn

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September brought our usual two weeks of sunshine followed by a distinct drop in overnight temperatures that hints at the coming Autumn. 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.

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.

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. This year we were hit by late frosts which halved our apple harvest, so we will only be producing around 100 litres of cider this year which will make it even more in demand. We will also be experimenting with apple cider vinegar so keep your eyes open for it appearing in the shop.

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. 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.

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

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