"The end of September is the end of the gardening year"!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Regarding the headline to this month's News, I ought to clarify straight away that it is not my view, but that of the well known presenter of "Gardeners World",  expressed on a programme at the end of last month. To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement!

There is so much to excite us in October especially when the weather is as kind as it has been this year. In fact it was a replica of October 2015. Like many other gardeners, by careful plant selection, it is possible  to get the most out of our gardens throughout the year, with December being the only month when this is not possible. Even then there are things to do and a few plants to admire in the garden in a mild winter, and in greenhouses and tunnels especially if they can be heated. 

I have taken more pics than ever in a single month and the following give just a flavour (lots more to come!) of what a wonderful month it has been and I hope it has been the same for you.








 Sorbus "Olympic Flame"





Gentiana "Eugen's Allerbaster" a long flowering double form in  a trough at the garden of friends Liz and Paul. More of them later.



Apart from a couple of days of very prolonged, heavy rain, the month was benign with  a spell of cold nights in the third week, but often sunny days.  Some great cloud formations and with lower light levels and shortening day lengths, some stunning and  unique effects. 






19 nights with temperatures under 10C. Min 1C on 2 occasions and a max of  17.1C on 31st. 22 rain free days. Many still and wind free days.


Garden update

My first priorities in October are always to cut all hedges and the large yew which over 30 years I have transformed from a spindly weakling, originally  hemmed in between 2 large cherry trees, to a major garden feature. All from just one clipping a year in late September or early October. At a guess it is already 50 years old.





Scarifying and top dressing of the lawn followed by an application of a winter lawn feed is an essential task to ensure that the lawn comes through most winters in good heart. Without any visitors the lawns have had it easy this year!

Looks a mess I know but wait until you see the pics next month!


I am pleased with our vegetables this year all of which have cropped well, the long established pattern of succession planting ensuring that we had no gluts and a long season of cropping, in particular peas, beans of all kinds and superb sweetcorn- 65 cobs from 60 plants. Carrots have been the cleanest for many years with no fly and a good crop to store over winter. Similarly with celeriac and beetroot. As usual I planted out garlic cloves at the end of September but just a week after doing so some of them were pulled up and eaten, the remains evident on the soil surface. We obviously have gourmet vermin!

We have not missed our third veg bed which was turned into lawn in early summer. It meant sacrificing main crop potatoes, which I thought would be easy, but the quality of  some of the potatoes we have bought in has been exceptionally poor even with varieties like "Desiree" which are an all time favourite.

The nursery has been run down this year to reduce the amount of work we have to do to look after it in the winter but there are still plenty of plants in the polytunnels which at present I can't bear to part with. My gardening life and routines have been turned upside down by my condition but I am learning to adapt to it.

I did however covet this sign at the entrance to Bob Brown's wholesale outlet of Cotswold Garden Flowers in Evesham. 


We have 2 large Bramley apple trees that we inherited with the Lodge which every now and again, as is their want, produce a good crop, at intervals of a couple of years. This year we have harvested some really large aples for storing and many windfalls to share with friends and neighbours. Bramleys are tip bearers which are really difficult to harvest even with a long handled picker. 



The best cooking apple started life as a pip sown in a Nottinghamshire cottage garden two centuries ago and all the Bramley trees around the world started life as grafts from that one tree. What a lagacy, but  it is sad that the original tree has recently fallen prey to the dreaded honey fungus. For more info. go to www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-36826038


What's looking good?

In such a fantastic autumn it impossible to do justice to all the plants that are making a contribution to a spine tingling show. I started trying to count them all but it proved impossible so if I tell you that  almost every one the 80 roses we have in the garden  are in flower, as are 40+salvias, a variety of asters, sedums, dahlias, hesperantha (Kaffir lilies), hardy chrysanths. aconitums, grasses and a whole host of other unsung heroes you will get the idea.

Rose "Munstead Wood"


Rose "Gentle Hermione"


Aster "Star of Chesters" in perfect harmony with aconitum carmichaelii



And if you like a more subdued shade of blue what about aconitum carmichaelii Wilsonii Group?


 A magnificent stand of hardy chrysanthemum rubellum no. 5 in a private garden in Herefordshire


Without doubt the stars of the show are the trees and shrubs, not just at Cilgwyn but in all the gardens we have visited this month and the surrounding countryside.

Sit back and enjoy the show and judge for yourself whether the end of September really is the end of the gardening year

Neoshirakia japonica at Hergest Croft a rare and beautiful shrub


 Euonymus alatus at Cilgwyn - a great choice for shrub colour in a smaller garden


 Acers in a glade at Llwyn Garreg, Pembrokeshire


 Crab apples and a late Red Admiral feasting on the juice - headache tomorrow!


 Ripening medlars and good autumn colour at Llwyn Garreg


 At Cilgwyn there are numerous shrubs which generally don't colour up well, but like kolkwitzia anabalis have excelled this year


 And aesculus parviflora has turned a delightul butter yellow


 Some herbaceous perennials also contribute to leaf colour show ,like this stand of hostas by the Paddock pond.


 Hosta "Night before Christmas" (don't ask!) gives great value over a long season when most are long past their best.


 Exquisite colour on the faded bracts of euphorbia schillingii


 The last rudbeckia flower of the year and the long lived spent flower cones add structure and value to the border well into November


 Of all the many pics in this News item this is my absolute favourite - seed heads of a dreamy pennisetum and a lone scarlet poppy in the wildflower walk at Cilgwyn,


 It is easy to overlook smaller flowers in such a full on colour show but keen observation is rewarded when you look closer into the borders. This tiny bulbous plant is acis autumnalis and the coin I am holding up is a 5p piece. Charming flowers Sept - Nov if you are lucky,


 A smaller form of autumn crocus is colchicum aggripinum


 And if there is one plant in the garden to create interest continuously from May until November it is the viola which here is represented by v. cornuta alba. Lovely scented flowers that weave their way through border companions to about 3 feet


 We already have a small collection of saxifraga fortuneii cultivars in the shady areas of the garden and recently have started to acquire more. In particularly these rare forms from Japan- not to be found on the Internet or in The Plant Finder.





Wildlife and countryside

Last month it was the fate of the ash trees that took centre stage, but this month it is all about birds.

The most significant event was of a sparrowhawk, carrying a song thrush it had just caught, smashing into the conservatory. If you have ever seen the speed of a sparrowhawk in flight you will know what an incredible impact that must have been - Moira heard it from 3 rooms away and rushed to see what had happened. The poor thrush was dead and in modern parlance the hawk was "spark out"!


A unique photo opportunity presented itself so I settled myself in a chair just 2 feet away from the casualty scene.




For 15 minutes I watched the developments unfold as the sparrowhawk slowly recovered it's senses, then without warning, it suddenly took off, nearly taking my cap with it and I felt its primary feathers brush my ear as it flashed past landing in a shrub just behind me.


And if we hadn't had enough excitement for one day Kit the Kat suddenly appeared on the scene hell for leather after  the "bird in the bush". As Kit made a huge leap into the bush the sparrowhawk took off just in time - minus the songthrush prey it had caught earlier. A cup of strong coffee was called for.

Over the last couple of weeks huge flocks of  noisy jackdaws flying down our valley have become a regular occurrence at dusk, which is strange as we rarely ever see them around the gardens. More recently,starlings to have started to form their "murmurations"earlier than normal - is this the sign of the winter to come?

Jackdaws on the telephone wires in a scene reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock film


To complete the final episode of the bird trilogy after years of trying, I managed to capture on camera a heron at the edge of the Paddock Pond, but a picture of a kingfisher still eludes me!


This frog was lucky it wan't around when the heron came to call!



We  have had so many outings to gardens this month that I have begun to lose track, recently visiting 3 gardens in one day! All across mid and west Wales the autumn colour has been outstanding, the more so as the month progressed. 

 A special event was held at Penpont a large estate 15 miles from us to celebrate its 350th Anniversary being in the same family all that time






 There was some garden interest with a huge productive walled organic  garden 



 And this unbelievable yew hedge cut into the shape of a herd of elephants.



Hergest Croft, Herefordshire is one of our all time favourites  now in its 6th generation of ownership. Like all the older gardens under this heading it is so comfortable in its own skin. www.hergest.co.uk






 And the oldest of them all at nearly 1,000 years is Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire our favourite garden in Wales which just gets better and better. It respects the tradition and spirit of the place, but is not afraid to introduce up to date and highly effective new planting schemes. www.pictoncastle.co.uk


 Two new, relaxed borders featuring grasses and later flowering perennials were looking at their best


 The stunning flowers of canna x ehemanii on 8 feet tall plants


The tropical garden is just 4 years old but already looks magnificent


 And in halloween week just to show how unstuffy it is, some props to add a frison to the visit. They're behind you!!! Moira with friends Peter and Carole looking less than scared!


 And finally just a few miles from Picton is the outstanding 20 year old garden of friends Liz and Paul. A large garden at 3 and a half acres it is a plantsman's delight and has tremendous impact. For more info go to www.llwyngarreg.co.uk

Fine stands of salvias are just one testament to their plantsmanship





 And they particularly major on trees and shrubs


 And the latest project from these 2 workaholics is a new sunken bed, dug out and built by them hopefully to be ready for visitors next year.


Do visit these gardens next year if you can, and thanks for reading and staying with me.