At last - Autumn Colour

Monday, October 31, 2011

What an amazing month. No frost, the first time in many years we have got through October without one, and on the 2nd, 27C the warmest day of the summer! All this has seriously confused the plants so we are having extended flowering, repeat flowering of plants like campanulas, some plants flowering out of season (hellebores and spring flowering viburnums in particular) and hardly any autumn colour in trees and shrubs until the last 7 days or so. 

A busy month here with the start of putting the garden to bed, getting in all the tender stuff, gathering seed in between the showers, taking half hardy cuttings, completing sawing up firewood for winter especially one large air dried ash tree 4 feet across and continuing with garden talks. We have also had the builders in as we start the preliminary work for the conservatory to be built next spring, removing part of the pergola and repairing the verandah in this area onto which the conservatory will be built.  



We have had warm sunshine, rain, wind, nights when the minimum temperature has not dropped below 15C and a few cold days mid month when the temperature overnight was low enough (min 3C) for a ground frost. No damage done anywhere in the garden though.  Because of the building works by the house there hasn't been any room to sit outside and enjoy the balmy evenings! 


Garden update

The mild conditions and absence of frost have created the most marvellous growing conditions for a wide variety of plants, some of which should have switched off until next year. We even have a grey bearded iris in full flower, normal flowering time May/June. Nicotianas affinis, Lime Green and sylvestris still sending up new flowers daily, and the silvestris in various parts of the garden now an impressive sight at 5 feet tall and much branched stems. They are perennials but don't take too kindly to our winters - if they did one wonders how large they would get next year. Their scent is beautiful on warmer evenings and they produce so much seed from one plant that the whole of the country could be growing them in their gardens next year. 

Brugmansias flowering like crazy in pots giving out their exotic scent in shades of white, yellow and pink. Now is a great time to take cuttings to ensure 6 foot flowering plants by this time next year. Yes honestly they are that amazing!!!!!!!!



We have started taking into the tunnels all the tender plants in tubs and borders and taken many cuttings for next summer. Trying to remember where all the tender plants are is a big problem and even now we come across plants we have forgotten! Space is already at a premium in the tunnels especially as all the tomatoes are still cropping well. When these are finished (30 plants) we will have room for the 3 year old hellebores in pots which will be for sale next spring (not taking any chances this winter!)



The lawns have come on very well since the vigorous scarifying last month and application of autumn feed. They are still very green and when the weather permits need mowing regularly. The borders look so much better when viewed across a healthy lawn.

We are starting to consider the borders and what plants to move and split. It is also the time to consider changes to planting combinations as borders do become tired if they are not regularly made over. Quite a task with our 50 metre long 7 metre wide Paddock Garden borders especially as we have no help in the Gardens. I have already removed some dense clumps of ligularia dentata "Desdemona" which have seeded around too much. Just think every surplus plant removed  means more planting opportunities for new plants and yes no surprise there I do have a few waiting in readiness!!

October is a good time to review the year in the vegetable garden. I consider this to have been our best year since 2005. No real failures with lots of successes. Potatoes in 7 varieties, a teriffic crop of large clean potatoes, an almost carrot fly free crop of carrots, best variety "Nigel", some superb brassicas and the biggest sprouts we have had from the variety "Brilliant", heavy crops of runner beans. "Moonlight" a new one did well but I still have a lot of regard for "White Lady" which continued to crop well from an early sowing long after other later sown varieties had gone past their best. Sweetcorn "Swift" in 2 successional sowings kept us in lovely sweet cobs from late July to date:yes really lovely corn in late October. How great is that?

If the mice hadn't have eaten the later pea sowings they would have been great too given the huge crops of "Hurst Green Shaft" from the first 3 sowings. Pests and disease as always of course but nothing too serious except for onion white rot which affected all the onion tribe especially the garlic with crops at only 50%. Part of this is a reflection of the wet summer but mainly my own shortcomings in not giving 7 years between onion sowings in the same ground on a 3 year rotation. More care needed next spring!


Whats looking good?

Autumn colour from trees and shrubs has arrived at last. There was a time when I thought there wouldn't be any but in just the last 7 days this has all changed dramatically. Euonymus alatus has just started its pink phase being the first point on the journey to fiery red by late November. Next to it a liquidamber (variety unknown) is a brilliant deep burgundy and darkening all the while The viburums especially the form plicatum mariesii is in a lovely shade of rusty red with some unexpected white flowers as an added bonus. Cercis canadensis "Forest Pansy" is the cornerstone of the red border vying with cornus kousa for top billing. Best of all though is a superb sorbus "Olympic Flame" with intensely red large leaves that stay on the tree for a long time

Viburnum plicatum mariesii



 Sorbus commixta "Olympic Flame"



On the shrub scene there is some terrific late flowering on Hydrangeas especially the serrata forms including "Blue Bird". H. "Preziosa" is sending up late flowers which start cream white, then to cream, then spotty red before ending its cycle as a brilliant magenta pink (if that is a colour!!) It also has some good fiery leaf colour as added bonus. Best of all though is the jewell like flowers of hydrangea "Merveille Sanguine" with dark almost black leaves.

Hydrangea "Merveille Sanguine" growing amogst the shy but complementary coloured flowers of impatiens arguta a bone hardy perennial



On the subject of the species impatiens, I have frequently enthused about another impatiens in previous news items, the 7 foot tall scented tinctoria which is still flowering with white scented flowers. There is however, another choice species to rival it which has taken 2 years in a pot to flower. Called flanaganeae at about 4 feet it isn't quite as tall as tinctoria but has large pink flowers and good red veined and stemmed leaves

 Impatiens flanaganaea



There are some choice perennials for this time of year including various forms of saxifraga fortuneii, serratula shawii (now seoanei) a late flowering cornflower realtive , aster lateriflorus "Lady in Black" is at its peak now,  a very late clone that often gets hit by frost before it flowers, dahlias sending up new flowers daily, and dare I say it again the tender Salvias in 10 varieties flowering their heart out all over the gardens but good old "Jimi" steals the show again with its generous display of intense red flowers. (see September news for more info on this magnificient clone)

 Saxifraga fortuneii which loves shade and moisture retentive soil and flowers into November if there are no frosts



 Serratula shawii. The pic doesn't do it justice as the knaphead flowers are a much deeper shade of purple.



A half hardy member of the bromeliad family fascicularia bicolour, hardy in some choice spots in sharp drainage (you can guess this rules out our part of Wales!) is grown here in a large pot and set outside for summer. It has intensely coloured red leaves in autumn and china blue waxy flowers and is just reaching the end of its brilliant display in our plant which is over 10 years old.

Fascicularia bicolour




Wildlife and Countryside

Some otter activity in the Paddock Pond on the evening of 7 October. Tell tale signs of fish scales on the bank, up tipped  waterlily baskets and spraints, droppings left by the otters. A low electric fence should keep them at bay.

Other fish predators this month have included kingfishers heard around the Paddock pond but not seen yet, and sighted last week flying overhead Cormorants!! Two snipe yesterday in marshy ground near the river

Recently there were some lovely berries on one of the large hawthorns near to the river. Then in the mid month colder spell  a party of Redwings, thrush family members, alighted on the trees and stripped them bare in just a few hours! I expect they were hungry after their long flights from Baltic States.

A large party of long tailed tits seen 3 weeks ago in the shrubs around the pergola, busy little birds chirping away  to each other, one of their most endearing qualities, and an easy means of identification.

Autumn colour from native Britsh trees snd shrubs including oaks, beech, field maple, wild cherry and larch has come just in time


Visits and talks

With our friends Sylvia and Tony from Gloucestershire staying for almost a week in mid month we had time for a few outings, none more memorable than that to the Devil's Bridge and the Vale of Rheidol near Aberystwyth. Only 50 miles away, I am ashamed to say it but we have lived here for nearly 36 years and had never previously visited the area with its stunning landscapes and magnificient waterfalls. There is also a tropical butterfly and moth attraction and exotic plant collection nearby which is well worth a visit too. Go to fro more info.

Butterflies and a large brown moth 





One of the magnificient waterfalls at Devil's Bridge;after heavy overnight rain this one had a good fall of at least 200 feet with further waterfalls lower down the valley.



Hergest Croft Autumn Plant Fair and RHS Apple Day was a good event but sadly the autumn colour was disappointing, usually one of the seasonal highlights of Hergest. Talking to some of the stallholders who live in "border country" Herefordshire, Shropshire, and Gloucestershire we discovered that their summer had been vastly different from ours with under 20" of rain recorded for the year to date, a fact reflected in the range of plants for sale. We were however well pleased to be able to purchase from the superb nursery at Hergest a large specimen of acer palmatum dissectum ornatum at 3 foot wide and tall for a very reasonable price to replace a large daphne odora marginata which like many daphnes had succumbed to two severe winters. 

Acer palmatum dissectum now planted at Cilgwyn



The talks season continues with several talks given in a 60 mile radius of Cilgwyn Lodge. We are really pleased how the new talk "Gardening with Perennials - Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden" has been received and are sure it will become a firm favourite into the future. We still have some free dates until April 2012 so please get in touch if you would like us to give a talk to your club or society. See elsewhere in this website for our full range of talks.



Some late very sad news; we had to call in the vet today, 3 November, to put to sleep our beloved cat Bojo who had advancing kidney failure and worsening cancer. He was  much loved by our many visitors to Cilgwyn and will leave a huge gap in our lives. He was only 10 years old but he now has a special permanent place amongst the roses along the terrace at the head of the Red Border looking over the garden and countryside he loved and knew intimately ( he was born just a couple of hundred yards away).

RIP Bojo


Bojo in happier times in his favourite spot in the sunshine on the heather bank near the pergola