Autumn vies with the summer for the most colour in the garden. September can be an honorary summer month at times, the mercury still capable of reaching the low 20’s Celsius. The dahlias, mesembryanthemums and other bedding are often at their best in September and very often flower into November, providing the frosts stay away. Late flowering herbaceous such as Crocosmia, Aster and Rudbeckia provide a welcome complement.
The fruit trees are laden with apples, pears and the last of the plums, providing a welcome feast for human and non-human. Fruit-eating butterflies such as Red Admirals and Peacocks, feasting on the windfalls, can be seen well into October.
Birds feed on the seed from the Giant Sunflowers, purposefully left in the ground and the fruits from cotoneaster and Rowan.
As the autumn advances, the hours of daylight reduce and the temperatures slowly decline, so the tapestry of trees in the Pleasure Ground and round the Walled Garden starts to change, the cherries and rowans first, followed by the acers, ashes and larches – a riot of reds, purples, oranges and golds.
In the garden, we welcome less weeding but there still remains much to be done. The grass in the walled garden continues to grow well into November, still requiring mowing, whereas outside the walls, it has stopped growing a full month previously.
In the autumn, the frost-tender plants such as the palm and the olive tree return to the greenhouse where we usually have a reasonable crop of tomatoes for most of the autumn period before the cold sets in during November.
While the start and end of each day is marked by the calls of skeins of geese heading for and returning from their feeding grounds, the prevailing sound of the autumn is that of the two-stroke engine. The long grass that grows underneath the old apple trees in the Walled Garden and the Secret Garden is strimmed down and mown, giving the wildflowers a good chance of self-seeding. It is also hedge trimming time, including the T-shaped Yew arbour; we aim to complete this work by the end of October, and preferably earlier if we can in order that we can start on the fruit trees, a task which takes most of the winter but which we try to accomplish before the worst of the snow arrives after New Year.