The fifth season in gardening?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Since starting to develop the gardens at Cilgwyn from about 1995 onwards, it has always been my intention to extend the gardening year by planting the widest variety of late flowering plants in all our many borders. I have certainly achieved my objectives, which have been augmented every year by new additions. Salvias are a real bonus with an increasingly wide range available, and to name just a few others, there are many members of the daisy family, grasses and hydrangeas, alongside more unusual contributors like strobilanthes, roscoeas, a growing range of saxifraga fortuneii, along with annuals like cosmos and rudbeckia. 

A novel way of viewing the garden this month from my lofty vantage point afforded by scaffolding to enable us to paint the outside of the house, constantly interupted by another picture opportunity coming into view!



 The House Garden



The Paddock Garden



The Picket Fence Border at the front of the house



Seen close up and looking very well together are Aster laevis "Star of Chester" and Aconitum carmichaellii



 Pernnial sunflower  - helianthus  "Lemon Queen"  robust and long lived.



Strobilanthes rankanensis, rarer and infinitely better all round than the more commonly encountered s. attenuata which is invasive and very floppy. Both are tall to about 5 feet and grow well in retentive soil and part shade, Rankanensis has class and elegance - just like me! I wish,  Ever seen me in my gardening clothes?!!



Roscoeas do well here and many  have an extended flowering period into October. This fine form is r. "Cinnamon Stick" which like all members of the genus does well in some shade in ground that isn't too dry.



For me there is a seamless link between late summer and early. and sometimes late, autumn weather permitting In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph Weekend supplement the author, Tim Richardson, put forward the proposal, based on the wide availability of suitable plants, that there has increasingly become a fifth season covering the period from late summer to early autumn.  I think he shares the same passion as I do for extending the gardening year, unlike some members of the horticultural media who take the view that September is the end of the gardening year!!   I am not sure if if I fully understand why he needs to give his concept such a title but from my experience, I know where he is coming from! The proof of what can be achieved by imaginative planting is evident all over the gardens here, and other gardens we have visited, and there is as much colour and vareity to give delight now, as at any time of year. 




This one picture sums up the weather for the month, gloomy much of the time, wet and little sunshine



A largely dismal month with rain on 20  days. Sunny days were intermittent with a max of 18C on 3 days - 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Min temperature 3C on 3rd. 9 other days below 10C

Garden update

Despite the very challenging weather which was anything but the longed for Indian Summer, the garden has looked better than could be expected.

Part of the shade border in the Paddock Garden



And the contrasting dry border consisting of sun lovers especially at this time of year asters and sedums






The lawns have been so wet that my usual autumn lawn scarifying and top dressing regime has been delayed, but I will need to make the most of any good spells of weather to get it done as it certainly makes a big difference next spring. In  addition an application of a specially formulated autumn/ winter lawn feed in October and December weather permitting will make the lawns look green and healthy all winter. Don't under any circumstances use a summer feed which is too high in Nitrogen. One final comment on the lawns is that we (and the birds!) appear to have brought the infestation of cockchaffer grubs under control.


New grass growing away well after turf was removed and all grubs disposed of. No chemicals used as the birds gobbled them up



Vegetable harvest is good with excellent climbing French beans (Cobra), over 50 fine cobs of sweetcorn (Swift),  a few runner beans on the late sown variety "Firestorm", the last peas, and a good range of brasicas and root crops. We also have good salad leaves as I remembered to make that crucial direct sowing in early August under fleece to hopefully see us well into October

The day after I wrote this blackbirds moved in for  feast, destroying at least half of the cobs. I caught them in the act as I had suspected squirrels, rodents or larger birds like jackdaws or jays.





The last feed of the year from peas and climbing Fench beans



Late mixed salad leaves and cut and come again lettuce



In the tunnels and greenhouse there are many fine things to admire and  late cuttings starting to strike, pelargoniums and salvias mostly. They are a refuge when as it so often has, the weather cuts up rough.


Grapes perhaps? No such luck. Berries on fuchsia arborescens which are supposedly edible but other than the odd berry I am too much a whimp to make a tart or jam!



A beautiful and very different begonia which came to me without a name. I must try and follow this up



 Salvia "Phyllis Fancy" which was all over Malvern Autumn Show. I have had this one 5 years and it has produced good cuttings which like all salvias strike easily and quickly makes good plants if taken by mid summer.



Dichroa febrifuga which I at last (in Cornwall) managed to purchase in July. In the hydrangea family, it is not  especially hardy so it will be cossetted in the big tunnel



What's looking good?

Everything you would normally excpect at this time of year, some later, some unbelievably earlier than usual (particularly autumn colour on trees and shrubs). 

 Sorbus "Olympic Flame"  This pic taken mid month, the earliest it has coloured like many other trees and shrubs this autumn



And a week later; it has already begun to shed its leaves



Kniphofia rooperi always a welcome sight in Autumn with rich colour and tall habit. Needs a good few years to reach a good size to produce a large crop of flowers when it reall comes into its own.



Sedum "Autumn Joy" and Salvia "Amistad" a really choice deep blue from dark calyx on a 5 feet + plant. Note that some autumn flowering sedums have now been reclasified as  Hytolephium, a separate genus. 



A lovely single rosebud "Irene Watts" delicacy and charm amongst  the cacophony of colour all around. It is amazing how many different shades of pink are in evidence all around the garden. Pretty in pink indeed.



Hydrangea paniculata in a good range of forms continue to put on a good late show, this one is "Magical Candle" which still looks as fresh and vigorous as when it came into flower 2 months ago



And I can never resist the opportunity to sing the praises of the magical H. Preziosa, the chameleon hydrangea. Flowers and leaves change colour throughout the season, affected to some extent by the weather, soil conditions (PH and so on) and where it is growing.



Hydrangea involucrata x aspera Kawakami group

A rare and unusual cross - a real eye catcher



Salvia confertiflora up to 5 feet tall, one of several making an imposing statement at the back of the Red Border



Autumn composition of Sedum, stipa gigantea and aster frikartii "Monch" much later in bloom than last year. 


 Aster amellus "King George" Shorter with clear blue flowers, For sun and good drainage



 Classic aster (Symphiotrichum)  New England form  "September Ruby"



A new perennial to me last year was ageratum petiolatum. Wonderful powder blue flowers en masse on a 2 feet wide and high plant. Everyone who sees it falls in love! Easy from cuttings which is a good idea because the hardiest has not been tested fully. Only 3 nurseries in this years RHS Plant Finder  are stated to stock this beautiful planf.



Fascicularia bicolour a half hardy bromeliad



 There are still some good clematis in flower, this little charmer, a short scrambling form, is C. x jouiniana - slightly scented.



Wildlife and countryside

Pity the poor trees. Ash especially which are even more badly affected this year by ash die back disease. I know that ash is known for losing branches for no apparent reason, but on an altogether smaller smaller scale. 100% of all the 10 trees around the gardens here are more badly affected than they were last year.


A small ash woodland appearing through the gloom of another soaking wet day. Only a few of the perimeter trees are not affected by disease




There are possible signs of Dutch Elm disease on local trees (wych elms) including the sole survivor at Cilgwyn Lodge, which is the 3rd generation from the original tree which was here when we came. They have the capacity to recover by suckers from the parent tree. Our current specimen is now 25 years old.


Diseases of Horse Chestnut have been in evidence on our travels this summer, the further east we have travelled the worse it seems to be.

But this small  horse chestnut in adjoining field to us has good autumn colour



But no conkers - every schoolboy's dream in 1950's and 60's to be strung up on leather laces and fought out wth every other conker until it is shattered. I guess that the game has largely disappearded amongst schoolboys  - and girls?

I had to travel all the way to Hereford! to find these conkers, thanks to Judy and Andrew.



A blackcap having a rest on a wicker chair outside the conservatory. First time I have seen this summer migrant, known as the northern nightingale on account of its sweet song.



In the August News I reported on a mystery impatiens which I discovered on a bank of the River Cherwell in Oxfordshire. Just one plant on a long stretch of the river. I really enjoy the challenge to identify unknown plants I come across in the countryside. There have been 2 others this year, an unusual green tinged daffodil subsequently identified as Telemoniius Plenus or Thomas Viriscent,  and what appeared to be a form of Oxlip, a cross between our native primrose and cowslip which has yet to be positively named, even though I have enlisted the assistance of the Conservation Office for Carmarthenshire.

 Impatiens capensis



As to the the impatiens, I have,with the help of the Internet and gardening friends, established it to be impatiens capensis a wild form from North America which was introduced to the UK as early as 1823!  It is an annual with orange flowers and a graceful branched habit. I hear you say it seems to be just like the infamous widely spread Himalayan balsam. It does not nowever appear to be nearly as invasive in its heartlands the South of England. I have not seen one in Wales - yet!

For more info go to


More butterflies on one day than the whole of "summer" on 28 September. Sedums and asters were the main choice of nectar




Three garden visits this month and the annual end of season trip to Malvern Autumn Show.


A glorious day ensured the biggest crowd we have seen there



A novel way of presenting dahlias on the Dahlia Society stand



Amaralids at their peak



Open veg competitionin the Harvest Pavilion



And Giant vegetables



But there is only one master the great Medwyn Williams who once again won the award for  best display  His stand is always crowded. A really nice man and always willing to give of his time to answer quetions. It was a pleasure to get to know him 5 years ago when I was privileged to be asked to speak on Growing Vegetables at Cilgwyn Lodge for  his Masterclass Vegetable Weekend in North Wales. What a welcome and a memorable event. 



Part of the National Collection of various forms of aster from Old Court Nurseries











A regular event over the last 10 years has been a get together of NGS garden owners and their helpers at the home of Jane and Ivor Stokes, respectively the County Organiser and Deputy for the Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire region of the NGS. Always well attended it is great fun to meet up with fellow garden owners, many of whom have become good friends. Sadly Jane has relinquished her post this year  and will be much missed although Ivor is continuing his support role. Thanks for everything Jane.

Jane and her fellow County organiser Jackie Batty in front of our plant sales 



 And Jane making a speech of thanks. Ivor her husband, just in time! coming out of their beautiful house