The September pages of my garden journal sees the first signs of autumn creeping in, colours changing, light creeping in at a lower level and our summer migrant birdlife disappearing. The skies are empty and quiet now that the Swallows and Martins have left us for warmer climes. We are missing the sight and sounds of Warblers flitting among the trees and shrubs but hopefully some Garden Warblers and Chiffchaffs will decide to stay with us. Climate change seems to be encouraging more migrants to remain in the UK all year through.
Being a British gardener I start by talking about the weather! “The “Met Office” weathermen tell us that September is the first month of Autumn, but we hope it will be the continuation of Summer. This year September is unlike Summer, and is not even an Indian Summer. It is a dismal month of heavy skies and rain. Every flower that fights its way through the gloom is a ray of sunshine.”
Next comes my usual piece of writing from Jenny Joseph’s little book, “Lead by the Nose”.
For September, it is harvesting and clearing what is there on the one hand, with a great deal of sharp acrid savoury smells from dead-heading, disentangling, weeding, cutting down leaf and stalk, digging up roots.”
I move on to consider a special group of plants which Jude and I love in our garden, the airy, whispy plants that can’t help but move in the gentlest of breezes, the “Windcatchers”.
“September has been a windy month, which has accentuated the part played by the “Windcatchers”, those special plants which display the ability to catch the slightest breeze and dance in it. These are the tall grasses, Stipa gigantea, Miscanthus sinensis and the Molinias and Calamagrostis, the airy flowering perennials especially Verbena bonariensis and Gaura lindheimeri. Gauras have variety names that suggest their windcatching skills, “Whirling Butterflies” and “Summer Breeze”.
The photos below show what a beautiful plant Verbena bonariensis is with its bright purple flower heads nodding in the breeze atop its stiff thin stems. It is a true wildlife magnet too attracting Butterflies and Moths, Bees and Hoverflies and many other flying insects. As the light fades in the evening the flowers glow and their scent intensifies to attract night flying insects and a miriad of Moths.
The movement of grasses and their big cousins the Bamboos also adds sounds to our garden, rustling, tinkling and sounds like those of the seashore, shifting sands, rolling pebbles and retreating waves.”
Grasses are such an important element in our garden and help create an all year round garden. From their fresh green leaves emerging in the spring right through to their flowers and on to their seedheads which stand right through the winter.
Surprises are the subject of my next page.
“Surprises are always fun in the garden, those little things not planned for or expected. Here are two surprises for September in our garden.
We were pleasantly surprised at the rich autumnal colours of our Euphorbia griffithii “Dixter” which grows in our Beth Chatto garden, and how this damaged Verbascum repaired itself.”
My watercolour paintings of Acer rufinerve and Phlomis russeliana feature on the next page titled “Seedpods for September”. These seeds are capsules of promise, time capsules. The wing-like Acer seeds are shaped and moulded to allow a gentle descent in the wind, each maple key parachuting down to find a place to germinate. The pompom seedheads of the Phlomis are tightly packed balls of rough textured seeds designed to stick to any passing creature who will wander off and drop it away from the parent plant where it can find space to become a herbaceous plant with hairy heart shaped leaves and yellow-orange balls of flowers.
We now move on to the end of the month when the weather surprised us as it changed for the better, change to good gardening weather and good weather for appreciating gardens.
“As the month came to its end we were suddenly treated to an “Indian Summer”. The skies were clearest blue, the sun shone and temperatures went back up. The garden loved it as much as the gardeners! Our two varieties of Schizostylus, “The Major” and “Alba”are flowering better than ever before.”
“Two real stars of the autumn garden are our two Salvias that are too tender for us to leave out over our winters, so we grow them in pots and bring them indoors as soon as the cold nights appear. They are Salvia “Amistad” with its bright purple and black flowers and Salvia confertiflora with its long spikes of red and salmon flowers.”
So that is my journal all about our garden in September. I am already writing and painting my entry for October so that will be the next episode of “My Garden Journal”.