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

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Midsummer makeover

20130728-193733.jpgThis past week has seen a change in the weather, still warm but thundery downpours have appeared on the scene. Good news for the garden as no need now for supplementary watering. I’m waiting for a barrage of previously dormant weed seedlings however!

This week  we’ve been giving the garden a mid-season makeover, hence a rather longer post than usual.

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Making hay…with the sunflowers in the background and the giant thistle to their left

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Giant Thistle (Onopordum acantheum

The new grass areas in the walled garden whose seed heads gave us that rippling velvet effect earlier in May have now been strimmed down and the hay cleared; the rain and wind had flattened it so it was time to clear it. From now on until the end of the growing season, we’ll mow it short like the rest of the grass in the walled garden. We’ve left two long drifts of long grass under the old apple trees though as the wild flowers we planted there are still flowering and we want to give them a chance of setting seed.  Some of the hay is now drying under the staging in the greenhouse; it will be appreciated by the hens and the elderly resident in the greenhouse when dry.

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the first of the Dahlias

20130728-193836.jpgThe dahlias, cosmos, and mesembryanthemums underplanting the roses have  been enjoying the sun and this has started them into bloom so we’ve been keeping the hoe going around them to keep them tidy. The sweet peas too have been excellent, although shorter-stemmed this year- we can pretty much pick a vase-full a day at the moment and indeed we need to otherwise they will stop flowering!

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Cosmos

The other annuals we’ve given their own bed to are the younger son’s giant sunflowers which at around 4 feet at present are not particularly giant but they are very stocky which means they won’t be subject to wind- blow. They’ve been lapping up the sun, they’ve starred to flower and I’m pretty sure they’ll put on a great show – one flower that can’t help make you smile! Not bad for a small bag of parrot seed…

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The area I’m most pleased to have got under control is the shade border as that had become somewhat overrun with our old favourite- willow herb and creeping buttercup, I was a bit concerned that it might suffer during the dry spell – particularly the damp-loving Ferns ( including Shuttlecock and Royal ferns), the Candelabra primulas and the Ligularia, but this border lives in almost total shade of a high wall with no overhanging trees; it locks in whatever rain falls like a giant swampy sponge and all plants sailed through, although I did give a can- full to the Ligularia as it is in full bloom at the moment and did look a little stressed.

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In the greenhouse, everything that doesn’t answer to the name of tomato has been moved outside for a break in the sun, including the perennials which we have still to plant in the  new west-facing bed; this area has now been sprayed with glyphosate to clean the ground of perennial weeds, ready for planting in 2-3 weeks’ time.

We’ve been selectively spraying glyphosate in the woodland too – just nettles this time. We started this spraying programme last spring as the whole area was overcome with nettles making it virtually impenetrable to humans as well as stifling the other plants that were attempting to grow. Most of the wood is now clear and we’ll only need to spray occasionally, just to get rid of nettle seedlings. So far we’ve only planted new rhododendrons into this area but I’m keen to plant it with some woodland perennials too if we can get the ground clean enough.

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Hosta

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Nymphea Colonel AJ Welch

 And finally, proof that plants can  pick up the internet! In a recent post, I was bemoaning the fact that my yellow waterlily never flowered and that I would probably be replacing it. No sooner had I written this this that not only the original plant but also it’s rather annoying and similarly useless progeny,replanted at the other end of the pond courtesy of one of the gardening ducks, decided to revolt by each producing not one but two splendid canary yellow blooms! The compost heap grim-reaper no longer beckons!

P.s while on pond matters, large blue 3 inch dragonfly spotted hovering over the pond this past week. These almost prehistoric insects fill me with awe; we have nothing else like them in Scotland, closely resembling a mini helicopter. Sheer magic!

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