Autumn Gold

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Fraxinus, the Ash

For this week’s autumn colour, the Ash (Fraxinus) takes centre-stage. They have transformed in the last 7 days or so from mid-green to bright yellow. We have a smallish tree in the garden but there is a large one on the Estate and this is the one I’ve pictured. It stands out like a beacon amongst the other trees and, even if the sun is not shining, it creates the effect that it is. But when the sun does come out, the effect is outstanding!  This has got to be one of my favourite autumn treats!

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Cotoneaster (species unknown)

The season of seed-setting, berry-forming and fruit-bearing is well underway now. The cotoneasters are looking particularly good at the moment with red berries a-plenty. This is a great family of shrubs as, following the berry season, you invariably have wonderful autumn foliage colours to enjoy – all shades of red, orange and gold. Walking past our sunflower border yesterday, I noticed that some small creatures (birds, maybe field mice) have been extracting some of the new seeds from the dinner plate-sized flower heads. Sunflower seeds are high in fat content so this should help to see the diners through the winter!

One family of plants that does very well here, providing a floral show from August to the first frosts are the Japanese anemones. They have attractive foliage and seed heads too and seem to do very well in deep shade.

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Anemone hupehensis ‘Praecox’

But floral longevity isn’t everything. There’s a lot to be said for the seasonal show-stoppers offered by the bulb family – short blasts of temporary interest. I’m quite a fan of the Colchicum family – Autumn crocuses we used to call them, not to be confused with the true crocuses that also flower in the autumn. We’ve grown varieties like ‘Water Lily’ (pink, double-flowered) in our other gardens, but here we have the simple C. album – pure white with yellow stamens. In the spring, I discovered a large clump at the back of the herbaceous border and transplanted some to front -of-border positions elsewhere. Happily these are now flowering, showing that the transplants have been successful. The only downside? Large green strappy leaves that come through in the spring, but they don’t last for too long. Small price to pay, perhaps, for the flowers-only show in the autumn!

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Colchicum album

Fewer insects around now in the garden, although the ‘Indian Summer’ has been kind to those that remain. Just last weekend, we saw a large dragonfly hovering over the pond, looking as if it was laying its eggs. A good number of butterflies, now mainly Peacocks and Red Admirals, can still be seen on a wind-free sunny day, particularly enjoying the Verbena bonariensis. Indeed, this is a popular food plant for bees, particularly Bumbles, which now appear a little more lethargic.

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Verbena bonariensis (with diner!)

As hinted above, September and October to date have been warm, generally dry months, but for how much longer? While tempting to leave it until November 5th, the Good Lady yesterday pressed on with having a bonfire to remove all the brash taken from the lime- trees last month, conjuring up memories of previous autumn bonfires from our childhoods…

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Fires in the fall

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Dynamic Autumn

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The new west-facing border starting to take shape, with the translucent spires of Pennisetum ‘Tall Feathers’ prevalent

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Nerine bowdenii

Autumn has arrived at the Scottish Country Garden, a time of year when the weather titans battle it out for supremacy, as evidenced by the contrast of this and last weekends. The Autumnal equinox is here with its high winds and horizontal rains (last weekend), interspersed with really quite summery days where the temperatures can still exceed 20 degrees C (this weekend).

Most of the harvest is now in round about us – not a bad one, by the looks of things. There has been a frenzy of farm machinery of late as the fields are turned around in time to get the winter crops underway before the first frosts slow their growth. Neat rows of winter barley shoots are showing through the bare soil, like immaculately drilled soldiers in some vast military parade. Roe deer can be spotted easily in stubble fields early in the morning hoovering up spilled grain.

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An Autumn display with Echinacea Magic Box, Sunflowers, Dahlia ‘Bishops Children’ and Eryngium alpinum in the background

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Rowan berries – harbingers of a cold winter or product of a good summer?

The first of the autumn colours are now showing with beautiful reds, crimsons, and oranges the order of the day with the cherries, cotoneasters and rowans, the latter laden with ripe clusters of berries much beloved of the birds of the field, although hopefully not a harbinger of a hard winter to come.

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The Kitchen Garden, with apples in the background, Buddleia ‘Gulliver’, Verbena bonariensis, Dahlias again with some contrasting greenery along the front in the form of some self-seeding, late-season poppies

In the pond, the water lilies are starting to slow down, although blooms are still apparent from the more vigorous varieties.

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Carpets of Mesembryanthemums under the roses

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Cosmos with its feathery foliage

The walled garden is bearing up well, despite last week’s high winds, with continued shows of colour from herbaceous and bedding alike. The dahlias and mesembryanthemums are now at their best, but other colour abounds too. The Red Admiral butterflies have arrived to share the fallen plums with the Peacocks – two most exotic winged visitors at this time of year. We’re trying to keep the pots of bedding looking good, too, by feeding them with high potash tomato food.

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Growing in the Shade Border, the white delicate spires of the almost-black foliaged Actea, with autumn colours of Ligularia ‘Desdemona’ in the background, an old apple tree and the west-facing border in the distance

The dry June and July have resulted in a late flush of August weed growth so the last few weekends have seen some frenzied hoeing – quite achievable still in the sunny borders where the surface soil dries out, given half a chance; not so easy in our shade border where the sun will now not reach until next spring.

We’ve been planting out some of the herbaceous we grew from seed at the beginning of the year in the new west-facing border; these plants should root well over the next month or so while the ground remains warm, giving us a good show from next spring. We planted the first phase of the west-facing border last year from scratch and it’s now starting to look rather good. The spare herbaceous plants have been potted on and will be overwintered in the shelter of the greenhouse for planting out next spring or giving away as gifts!

The strimmer too has been busy these past three weeks cutting back the long grass under the old apples in the walled garden and in the Secret Garden, enabling easier access to pick this year’s apple and pear crops. We’ve never had so many of our fruit trees bear fruit in the ten years we’ve been here, including some trees which I never thought would ever fruit again.20130923-191557.jpg I’m particularly pleased at the crops borne by the wall-trained apple and pear trees in the Secret Garden, now enjoying more light as a result of our cutting back the overgrown beech hedge during last winter; these trees have not fruited for years and it’s very exciting to see them enjoying their new lease of life!20130923-191747.jpg

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I hate to lose trees; it’s sad to see a healthy tree cut down and just as bad to see one blown over in a gale. Each winter, we’ve been worried about this happening to one or both of the Lime (Tilia) trees that grow just outside the gates to the Walled garden and perilously near to the house. Well in excess of 100 feet tall, these 150-200 year monsters are blasted by the westerly gales each autumn and spring, which is scary, particularly as one or two trees on the estate round about us have been less lucky, blown over as a result of a single storm. If the same happened to one of our trees, there would be little left of our house, so we decided not to cut them down – that would have been very sad – but instead remove 40% of their top growth, reducing the ‘sail’ in the process. Limes regenerate from cut wood, so by this time next year, the sawn timbers should be less obvious and we should be able to sleep better at night when the winds are blowing.

For more on Autumn, visit The Four Seasons.

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One of the Limes near the house, its canopy reduced by 40%

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Dahlia ‘TM Dwarf Mixed’ with the blue-flowering Malva in the background

Stretching Summer…

Beautiful day today, clear blue sky, 4 degrees C. Prompted me to wander round the garden with trusty smartphone to see whether anything was still in flower. Much to my surprise, there was quite a lot! Come with me on a virtual ramble…image

Cheating a little here, foliage not flowers, but the Cotoneaster horizontalis outside the back door has to be at its best at the moment with its autumn foliage colour, accompanied by a host of little red berries, much beloved by the local blackbird population!

imageContinuing out the side gate and round the south side of the house, the winter-flowering jasmine has come into bloom, and yes, the little yellow flowers really are that bright!

Round the south side of the house, this climbing rose is looking extremely healthy – not sure what variety it is, but imageit’s a fine shade of pink, contrasting well with the shrubby imageHypericum just a little further on with its cheery ‘pheasant’s eye’ blooms.

Round to the west side of the house, now and the sweet scent of the Viburnum bodantense ‘Dawn’ fills the air. This marvellous family of shrubs can be counted on to provide colour at the time of year we most need it; this one will flower right through the imagewinter months, not fazed at all by the chill winter snows.

Meanwhile the Japanese anemones imagenearby still keep on flowering – these are amazing herbaceous perennials and have been flowering continuously since late August.

And back into the walled garden via the main gate, past the rather interesting seed heads of the Turkish Sage (Phlomis), having now turned from a lemon yellow colour to a imagebeige brown, retaining their form for most of the winter. Down to the north side of the garden, past a large-leaved deciduous Cotoneaster imageimageshowing fiery red foliage, past a rather confused foxglove with its speckled ‘tongue’, and on to the rejuvenated lupins which have been spectacular this year, imagestill pushing out strong new blooms!

And we finish our tour with one of our exquisite David Austin roses. image

Clearly, even if we think Winter has arrived, Nature has other ideas, even if you do need to put on 4 layers of woollens to appreciate her wonders!

Hedging our bets

It all started with a visit to Greywalls Hotel, near the famous Muirfield Golf Course in East

imageLothian.  During a pre-luncheon amble around the Gertrude Jekyll-designed walled gardens, we discovered a series of ‘rooms’ enclosed by 6’ high dark green holly (Ilex) hedges. Simply planted with cherry trees in grass with a central feature of ferns and a small sculpture, taste and simplicity were the order of the day, giving us some ideas for our new grassed areas in the walled garden.

Filled with inspiration, we returned home and immediately looked up the price of young holly plants only to have our Jekyll-inspired hopes dashed by the eye-watering price tag for the large quantities required…

…until last weekend when the Good Lady (motivated by her last appearance in the ‘Compost Heap’ episode) stepped out armed with an elderly but razor-sharp pair of Felcos to herald the imminent arrival of the Festive Season, beating the birds to some berry-laden raw materials for her future  holly wreathes and garlands.

imageAt this point, as I recalled that November is the traditional month for hardwood cuttings, the ghostly form of Gertrude re-appeared! Time will tell whether the advanced guard of 40 holly cuttings, now lined out in our vegetable bed, strike. We’ll know this time next year…