Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - and almost a frost!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The heavy morning dews, the mist in the valley and the smell of wood smoke in the air - yes folks September is here and autumn is well and truly into its stride. Dark by 7.30pm so a shorter gardening day which is welcome after such a busy year. Swallows are slowly disappearing form the skies and the owls are more audible after dark,as they often seem to at this time of year. The trees are turning fast and already there is good colour on the acers and liquidamber, as well as the native trees that surround us. Very good crops of berries too.



A quiet month so far with some sunshine in the first week, cloud and rain the second and last week some very cold nights with the wind in the north and minima of 1c last Friday. I had all my horticultural fleece out over many tender plants and veggies which took best part of 2 hours! Was I relieved on Saturday morning to see that everything had come through unscathed, especially as we have our last group visit of the year tomorrow. We never want the garden year to come to an abrupt end in September and in the last few years we have been very lucky with the first frosts not starting until mid-late October.


Garden Update

Although things are obviously slowing down somewhat there is still a lot to see and promise of yet more to come before the end of the season. Now that the main summer flush has ended it's possible to study plants more carefully and appreciate their intrinsic merits which is sometimes lost in the many layered hues of high summer. The relaxed "shabbiness" and informality of autumn is something I do look forward to, as are the border stalwarts that make autumn so exciting (more of them below!!). We never want it to end but we know that the days are dwindling down and such colour and variety won't be with us for much longer. So we enjoy it whilst we can in its bitter sweet grand finale.


What's looking good

Late flowering clematis really come into their own now with some choice viticellas hanging on (Huldine, Kermesina and Blue Belle especially looking good). Clematis tangutica "Lambton Park"still full of buds, flowers and seed heads all at the same time is pretty impressive too. There is also an interesting  texensis x crispa grown from seed with lovely short recurved bells in pink with white edges, climbing all over the remains of a large filipendula to about 6 feet. Such a thrill to have grown such a beauty from seed over the last 5 years. Also from seed and at last getting into its stride is clematis rehderiana, the so called "cowslip clematis" on account of its sweet scent with pale lemon bells in profusion that will eventually make 12 feet or so. There are a few herbaceous clematis too with heraclifolia and tubulosa "Wyevale", both scented, making important statements in their own part of the garden. But if there is one above all others it must be clematis triternata rubromarginata. a cross between flammula and viticella purpurea . It's flowers are not unattractive and very generously produced but rather small, the main attraction being its very strong sweet scent on warm days, coming from the flammula parentage.

On the subject of climbing plants there are other treasures too notably dicentra scandens - yellow lockets to 12 feet, aconitum volubile one of several climbing forms of the common monkshood, various ipomeas, tender annuals in shades of pink and blue, and in the case of ipomea lobata yellow and orange. Towering above them all however is the current star - coboea scandens alba, the "cup and saucer" vine to 20 feet plus, in white, scrambling with clinging tendrils over several shrubs and fences and bringing a touch of the tropics to the autumn garden in Wales. Fabulous - Absolutely Fabulous! There I go again!! Plants bring out the worst in me!!!

It wouldn't be autumn without a special mention of asters. Because of a lack of sunshine here they are rather slow this year; the nova belgii are now flowering well with "Helen Ballard", "Marie Ballard" (the best ever in my opinion with large fully double blue flowers), "Grey Lady", "Marie Anne Neil" and "White Swan" to the fore. Some mildew but not too destructive this year. Plenty of species forms just starting and the eagerly awaited cordifolius cultivars "Little Carlow" and "Photograph " tantalisingly close to blooming.The same also applies to the A.lateriflorus cultivars. So much still to look forward to!!

Dahlias are going well as are the many salvias dotted around the garden. Those from central America which need short day length to flower are reaching their peak especially the "in your face" red salvia darcyii, a strong growing red, and involucrata, in a really shocking pink to 5 feet. We went to Kew Gardens on October 28th last year and there was a bed dedicated to late flowering tender salvias. What an absolute joy! Such magnificient colours defying the onset of winter  and making it seem such a long way away. Go on join me in pushing the boundaries that little bit more and take some cuttings to be sure of a similar display next year.

There is still more to come but you will have to wait until next month!



I have solved my blackbird problem with the tomatoes. They began to make serious inroads into the crop, asking all their friends over for a "tomato fest" courtesy of Cilgwyn Lodge Gardens!

No more. I made some netting mesh doors for the polytunnel and sorted the problem. Not that they didn't try every way to get in but eventually gave up and turned their attention to the elderberry crop instead. Result!! Wrens rather mockingly still come and go getting through the smallest gaps in the mesh. They don't eat the tomatoes and last winter the tunnels were a haven that got them through the severe winter.

Rabbits have now replaced the blackbirds as arch enemy number one but fortunately there is so much food around they haven't done much damage to date. They seem to be rather partial to achilleas at the moment and as there are plenty they are welcome to them. I wish though they wouldn't dig up the ground so much. And in all of this what does Bojo our beloved cat do? He sleeps and sleeps and sleeps and just occasionally helps himself to a rabbit snack!!



We continued to have visitors throughout the month which was great and as always met some lovely people. We have our last coach party tomorrow from U3A Gardening Group Llanelli to end our best ever season. As the result of our efforts this year and the support of all our visitors we will be paying over £3,000 to The National Gardens Scheme from the 750 visitors we have welcomed this year. Needless to say this has been a record year and we are so grateful for all the support and generosity we have received. As the garden visiting season ends, so the autumn/winter series of garden talks begins and we have 17 bookings already for talks on a variety of topics from Whitland in the west to Llangynidr in the east.

The next few weeks we will have time to become visitors ourselves, firstly this Saturday to Malvern Autumn Show and on Sunday 17 October to Hergest Croft Autumn Plant Fair in Kington, Herefordshire - for more details go to A lovely way to end the garden year.



We understand that the winner of the Daily Mail National Garden Competition will be announced in this Saturday's Weekend section of the Daily Mail. We are as curious as you will be to find out who has been selected as the overall winner.

Following the visit from U3A today we have done our final sums for the year for the stats required by the NGS. We have had 740 visitors and raised £3,205 for the charities supported by the NGS - a record by some way. We were really pleased to send the cheque to the treasurer tonight and are looking forward to recharging our batteries for 2011. We hope to have another successful year again with your support. We will continue to provide news updates during the winter so please stay in touch.

Best regards and "winter well"


Keith and Moira