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Garden Revisiting Part One – The Garden in a Cider Orchard

We are so lucky to have so many great gardens that we can visit in a day from home. I thought a week of posts all about revisiting gardens would prepare us well for the warmer weather and get our creative gardening juices flowing again.

There are many in our home county Shropshire itself and we have easy access to Herefordshire and Powys where there are even more. Several of our favourite gardens we like to visit every year or so, so that we can see how they develop over time and change with the seasons. In this occasional series we shall do just that. I shall be featuring those gardens that we like to keep going back to.

For the first of these we travel down the trunk road southwards, the A49 which will take us through South Shropshire and into the Herefordshire border. It is just a few hundren yards from this road that we find the gardens of Stockton Bury which are described as the “Gardens in the Orchard”. The garden was born in 1900 and has never stopped developing. The present gardener, Raymond Treasure has developed it into rich tapestry of unusual trees, perennials and even a few follies, all wrapped around the old farm buildings.

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It is a garden with a surprise around every corner, and however many times you visit this still happens. A living garden!

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The mixed borders are rich in perennial plants that the wildlife enjoy.

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At any turn in the path you can find a surprise, brightly coloured planting, secret rooms, unusual plants you can’t name,

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Please enjoy this special place by browsing through my gallery of photos. There are probably too many but Stockton Bury is such a photogenic location it becomes hard to edit your shots.

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Our return visit to Stockton Bury was as special as the first we ever made, full of special plants, secrets and surprises and touches of humour.

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Simply beautiful blossom

We grow many fruit trees here at our Avocet patch, mostly trained as cordons, ballerinas or stepovers, plus one freely grown tree a Quince “Vranga”. In mid-May these apples and  pears are in full blousy blossom.

I went out into the garden on a bright sunny day with deep shadows with camera in hand to record their beauty. I hope you enjoy my pictures.

Fruit will follow in the late summer and into the autumn. We will start harvesting in August and continue until the end of October, some apples we will eat fresh others we will store and enjoy through to the end of March. The pears we will pick off the tree and relish them while they are still warm, dripping with juices and full of flavour.


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Croft Castle – month by month – the final report

Illness has prevented us making our monthly visit to Croft Castle where I would take photographs and report back about all that is going on in the gardens of this Herefordshire property run by the National Trust. Thus this final visit for the year took place in early December and will be a joint report for November and December together.

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My Garden Journal – November

The penultimate visit to my garden journal for this year is here already, and I write this as November comes to a close. The strong winds of November howl around the house and roar down our chimneys. The rain has persisted for virtually every day of the month along with the strong winds.

My journal for the dreary month of November began “Our wonderful, heart warming Indian Summer lasts until the very last day of October, so we waited for the first day of November hoping for the continuation of warm, bright days. The eleventh month is usually a time of mists, fog and heavy dews.”

Jenny Joseph wrote of November, “Much of November belies the dread attached to its reputation, the shutting down, the gloom, the fog, the dark wet, the cold and the colds, autumn shrinking into winter.”

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On November 1st we woke to a heavy dew, thick fog and the rest of the day was damp and dreary. The whole first week was the same. Oh dear!

Thank goodness for our garden which on the dreariest of days provided bright, colourful sparks. In every border there is a flower blooming its heart out to please us and of course any brave bees out on the wing in search of pollen and nectar.

All the photos below were taken on the same day in late November.

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I next wrote about a real favourite plant of mine, a shrubby Buddleja rarely grown but oh so beautiful! Buddleja lindleyana.

We grow an unusual Buddleja, which is still flowering this month. Buddleja lindleyana hails from china and boasts beautiful two-tone purple flowers. Racemes arch from the tip of every arching stem. Sadly it is rarely grown. I take cuttings every November to give to friends. They love it too!”

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I enjoyed painting it too!

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I took a couple of photos as well which you may like to see, as they illustrate the colour range found within the flowers.

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On the opposite page from my Buddleja lindleyana painting I have featured another special plant again rarely grown. This one though is a tree, an Acer.

“A young Acer tree is growing in our front garden. At this time of the year its leaves turn into the colours of fire. Its leaf petioles glow red. Acer pectinatum – a very special tree!”

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Turning the journal’s page over we have a mouth watering page about apples! and on the opposite page I look at our Viburnums.

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“By this time of the year we have usually harvested our tree fruit and it is safely in store. This year we are still picking apples, some varieties should have been harvested by early September.” 

I reveled in the chance to get out the watercolours and study two tasty and very colourful apples, Scrumptious and Red Falstaff which grow one either side of the green house door.

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I moved on to consider the Viburnum shrubs putting on performances in our garden this month. “Various Viburnums give Winter interest and start their show now in mid-November. Their show is a profusion of gently coloured flowers, scent and shining red and black berries.”

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More shrubs graced the next few pages too, deciduous Euonymus and a Hydrangea.

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“Our deciduous Euonymus give us so many shades of pink as they metamorphose into their Autumn personas.”

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At the bottom of this page beneath the Euonymus I just found room for a pic of the thistle-like Silybum maritimum.

“The teal-green and silver foliage rosette will give us these colours through the winter. In Spring flowering shoots will creep upwards full of promise.”

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Another all time great of the shrub world is featured on my next page in the journal, A Hydrangea that gives us flowers that change colour, foliage that changes colour and a most unusual shaped leaf for a Hydrangea. It is Hydrangea quercifolia.

I wrote of it, “Hydrangea quercifolia is giving its all in the garden with white flowers turning pink and then finally rust. Autumn turns its leaves from bright apple green through to ruby red.” 

Its name gives a clue to its leaf shape as quercifolia means simply “oak leaved”. Our specimen has an extra attribute in that in Summer on humid days it emits a sweet honeyed scent. As far as I know they are not supposed to be graced with scent of any kind let alone one so special.

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My last double page spread is all about Persicarias, a really useful perennial for any garden with hints of the new perennial movement or a nod towards the Prairie style planting. We love both these styles so we grow several different ones.

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“A plant that gives us great pleasure in the Autumn is the Persicaria. We grow one type for its flowers and seed heads and another for its incredibly coloured and marked foliage. Persicaria amplexicaulis have poker-like flowers in various shades of red, pink and white followed by chocolate coloured seed heads.”

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“Persicaria virginata gives us wonderfully coloured and unusual marked foliage with the addition of tiny white flowers.”

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So that is the November visit to my journal. Next month will see me fill up my lovely little “Moleskine” note book as my December thoughts, photos and paintings bring the journal to an end for 2015.

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Aiming for an all year round garden – our garden in September 2

From the beginning to the end the month of September saw great changes as autumn began to show its glory. There may be fewer flowers out in this month but every one seems richer in colour and texture, and the greens of the foliage gets paler making way for yellows, oranges and reds to creep in.

Enjoy a journey around our garden in the final few days of September. Just click on any image to enter the slide show and click on the right arrow to move on through.

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What’s on the Plots? An end of year wander around the allotments.

Mid-December often sees the allotment site under snow or at least coated in frost, but not this year. We wandered around today with camera in hand and we were appreciative of the bright clear blue sky overhead. The midday sun cast long sharp shadows and it had enough strength in it for us to feel its warmth.

Having checked the post box for messages, and left a few magazines in the communal hut for others to enjoy, we started our tour at Wendy’s lovely plot. There is always something of interest to see and new things going on. We were not to be disappointed today. The sun caught the bright fiery colours of the willow hedge surrounding her compost heap.

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On an obelisk where the soft bark paths cross the striped flag glowed alongside a sparkling glitterball, while this character decorated her shed door. A cranky old monk? Brother Cadfael perhaps when he was dropped by the BBC.

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We next moved to the Autumn Garden and our newly planted section alongside our young fedge. The tree here is a Crataegus prunifolia which gives rich red autumn colour and deep red berries which is underplanted with bulbs. The border is planted up with sedum, asters, ferns, some perennial native flora and small shrubs. The cones and catkins of alders are beginning to get their purple hue. Cotoneaster leaves are as red as their berries.

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On many plots old crops sit forgotten in places whilst others await being picked throughout the winter. The sprouts will grace a plot holder’s Christmas dinner spread.

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Chard leaves on a sunny day are delightful. The reds, yellows and purples of their leaves and stems glow with the sun behind them.

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Further along the borders of the Autumn Garden we passed Trevor’s plot where there is always an interesting development to find. Today we discovered his new shed number. He must have problems remembering his plot number or needs to arrange to visit an optician.

In the final section of the Autumn Garden the grass Calamagrostis acutifolia “Overdam” stand tall and to attention and gentle honey scents flow from the lemon flowered Mahonia.

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On the shed roof of Plot 68 the massive scarecrow is looking worse for wear after our recent weather featuring heavy rains and strong winds. In the summer he won our annual scarecrow competition. It is hard to believe how he wowed our visitors on our Open Day.

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In the first orchard the last fruit hangs on, a golden crab apple. Fennel is already sporting new foliage on Alan’s plot and the last of the Raspberry fruits sit awaiting a hungry Blackbird. Close by in the first Buddleja Border a Shistsotylus bravely blooms on with an early Primula.

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The Globe Artichoke in the second Buddleja Border will soon burst and finches will flock in to feed off them, especially Goldfinches and Linnets.

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We then took a detour to see what is happening on our own plot, Number 37. The last of the flowers in our wildflower mini-meadow are bravely hanging on and a few of our parsnips have gone to flower producing chartreuse umbrella heads. A few autumn raspberries provide welcome food for Blackbirds.

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We moved on towards our old oak tree past plots where winter grown crops await Christmas dinners in members homes, leeks with their glaucous strappy leaves and sprouts behind netting protected against marauding Wood Pigeons.

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This little scarecrow bravely guards overwintering alliums.

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The Oak invariably looks wonderfully majestic but on a winter’s afternoon it excels with its long sharp shadows and silhouette of bare branches. In the spring Garden nearby the first bulbs are coming into flower, a pale Muscari, pushing their way through fallen oak leaves.

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On Sharon’s plot her frog thermometer shows it is mild for December and near by a lone apple hangs waiting to give sustenance to the Blackbirds.

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Glyn’s plot is well covered in a mat of green manures, so no heavy rain is going to leach away the goodness from the soil. Now that is good gardening!

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In the Sensory Garden the rose hips sparkle away in the winter sun which glows through the last of the rose bush’s foliage. Grasses here always look good but add extra movement in the gentlest of breezes.

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In the big meadow the last of the Red Campion and the Honesty are gamely flowering still. A lone bloom of Rosa Shropshire Lad casts a beautiful fruity scent across the picnic area.

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The bunting on Brian’s shed looks faded now but still adds cheer. The sunlight beams through the Dedge and intensifies the flat plate flower heads of the late Achillea.

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The Winter Garden is beginning to come into its own with peeling bark, powdery white stems and fluffy grass seed heads.

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Moving on into the site extension we find our newest insect hotel still standing after recent strong winds. As usual I have string and my Opinel garden knife in my pocket so tie it back to the fence. The bamboo looks settled in its new home at the end of the proposed Garden of Contemplation. From here we can see the mass of “keys” adorning every branch of our ancient Ash tree.

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Our long shadows look out across the site.

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In the second orchard the crab apples still have much fruit left on and these give bright patches of colour visible from all over the site.

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The stems of the coppiced willows in the Withy Bed shine as they start to show their late winter colour. This is something we are looking forward to. We have 17 different willow here in every colour possible.

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We are just beginning to prepare the ground for our new Prairie Garden which we shall make in the new year. This big patch of bare ground promises to become a riot of year round colour. We can’t wait to get started. On nearby plots we spot a patch of another green manure, Grazing Ryegrass and another lone apple on a tree.

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On Ian’s plot a big pile of farmyard manure waits the time when he digs it into the soil to add nutrients, humus and structure. It won’t take him long – he is a strong chap.

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Returning to the communal hut along the wide path we spot this old beer can acting as a cane top rattling away by the old sweetcorn stalks. On Mandy’s plot this little insect home will be looking after hibernating friendly critters who will emerge in the spring to eat pests such as aphids. Dave’s flags hang sadly atop their poles.

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As we returned to the car we noticed the first signs of growth on our spring bulbs. The first leaves of the daffodils have just made their way through the bark mulch. A promise of golden flowers to come. Our wheelbarrows give a big splash of colour in low sunlight.

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Telescopes and Trees – part one

Telescopes and trees do not normally go together but there is one very special place here in the Midlands where they certainly do. We drove northwards on the A49 making our way into Cheshire in search of Jodrell Bank famous as a space research centre created by Sir Bernard Lovell. He was a man with varied interests trees, cricket and space. Here in Cheshire he indulged in two of his passions trees and space.

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We passed through part of the information centre to get to the start of the arboretum trail and we tried to read some of the information panels and studied complicated diagrams. We were instantly lost – the realms of space are not within the realms of our understanding. We both find it fascinating but it all seems way beyond our understanding. At least we tried before moving into the arboretum – trees we can appreciate and understand.

This arboretum holds two National Collections, crab apples and rowans. Malus and Sorbus to be more botanically correct. These are two of my favourite families of trees, if only they had Betulas as well! I would have been in my element!

We had read on the website before coming that the paths can get wet so sensible footwear was advisable. We wore our walking boots and we were so pleased that we had. The paths were so wet often the water was almost to the top of our boots, but it didn’t spoil our enjoyment of a wonderful collection of trees set amidst a natural woodland setting.

A collection of deciduous Euonymus welcomed us as we passed through the wooden gate, their wild coloured berries and bright autumnal leaves were a treat for the eyes.

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We wandered through woodland towards a fairly recently created garden designed by Chris Beardshaw. Before entering his garden we found a little collection of Berberis clothed in their waxy red berries which hung in long racemes.

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Chris Beardshaw’s garden was designed to reflect the creation of space itself and was a strong design based on spirals and circles with a gentle mound at the centre affording us the opportunity of appreciating these shapes from above. The main planting was willows, grasses and perennials.

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Soon after a circular walk around this garden of circles and spirals we discovered the first of the Crab Apples and they were laden with fruit, their miniature apples in sizes varying from tiny beads up to golf ball size.

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This golden fruited variety in the two photos below are “Comtesse de Paris” and the red fruited variety below them with fruit reminiscent of the haws of our native Hawthorn is “Mary Petter”. Close by the stump of a felled old tree had been carved into a proud looking eagle. Upon the eagle we spotted a ladybird sunning itself perhaps finding extra warmth on the wood of the stump. Better camouflaged was the Shield Bug we found just inches away.

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Malus “Indian Summer” was one of the newly planted specimens probably a cultivar newly developed although some of the old original crab trees were now being replaced as they died off.

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But there was much more to this part of the arboretum than the wonderful crab apples, and we discovered interesting trees at every turn in the path and around every clearing, birches, walnuts, whitebeam and maples. In this area of the garden migrant thrushes were busy feeding up after their long journeys. All these crab apples, sorbus and other fruiting trees and nut bearing trees provide a wonderfully rich restaurant for them.

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Two trees caught our attention but we didn’t particularly like either of them and they both seemed so out of place in this natural feeling woodland. They were more “novelty features” than attractive trees. First photo is of a strange weeping conifer and the second a columnar Whitebeam.

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I shall finish part one of our visit to Jodrell Bank Arboretum with a photo of a lovely golden crab apple with blushed cheeks. My next post will be part two when we shall be on the look out for the second featured group of trees, the Rowans or Sorbus.

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The Final Cut

At last a half day of dry weather allowed us a window in which to cut our last meadow on the allotments. This meadow is situated close to our very mature oak tree and within the grasses we grow wildflowers and cultivated plants that we know attract bees, butterflies and moths, hoverflies and all sorts of beneficial insects. It is home too to amphibians, small mammals and even grasshoppers and crickets. The flowering plants here this year just have not stopped flowering their hearts out so we have left cutting the meadow down until last.

So early in November four of us set to with strimmers, mowers and rakes and we made sure we had our water proof clothes at the ready. An hour into our work and we needed them. But we persevered and got the job done. Beautiful rainbows came out to wish us luck.

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A few weeks earlier lots of members worked together mowing, strimming and raking away on the other meadows while the weather held. We were lucky to get so much done, finishing off all but one of our many meadow areas. It is really important to look after the meadows around the site as they are such an important habitat for wildlife and of course help us with our pest control by harbouring predatory insects.

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The meadows grasses beneath the fruit trees in the orchard get very thick so take a lot of sorting out. Luckily, Ian one of our committee came along and he is a builder so he made light work of it.

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The turf spiral is a very fiddly job but John came along and got to work with his strimmer. He loves strimming so we left him to get on with it! It looked really smart!

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When we had finished we had time to appreciate the wonderful colourful fruit of the Crab Apples which we grow in the orchards to improve the pollination of our main apple trees.

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When we stopped for our coffee and cake break we discovered that our resident Little Owl had been using the picnic bench before us. He had left a pellet for us to examine. We learned by studying it closely that he had been enjoying meals of beetles and mice.

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autumn autumn colours climbing plants colours fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening grasses half-hardy perennials ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs Shropshire

A Garden Bouquet for October

October this year is a very confused month, with some plants thinking it is already well into autumn and others believing they are still in mid-summer. And some, judging by the number of berries dripping from the trees must be getting ready to feed the winter migrant birds. Come with me for a wander and you will see what I mean.

In the Freda Garden opposite the front door this beautiful Crocosmia with its flowers in orange with an unusual hint of pink continues to flower profusely. By the front door the pots are filling up with bright orange violas giving a cheerful welcome to visitors.

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The leaves of the yellow winter flowering Ribes are turning all shades of pink and red while beneath it the perennial wallflower, Bowles Mauve, continues to flower even though it has barely had a rest all year. The lovely yellow Crocosmia sits comfortably alongside the Cotoneaster which is already heavy with berries.

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In pots alongside the wood store sit these two Michaelmas Daisies which we bought from the Picton Garden recently and they still sit in pots waiting for us to find a spot for them. On the left is the variety “Coombe Fishacre” and on the right the species “elegans”.

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Down the drive the berries of Cotoneasters and Rowan await the arrival of the winter thrushes but we will enjoy their rich red colouring while we can. Opposite them this beautiful blue Aster looks extra blue with the golden hues of the little grasses alongside.

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In the Chatto Garden, which looks good every day of the year, the whispy strands of the Stipa tenuissima  move in the slightest of breezes behind the rigid dried heads of Bherkeya and the mauve flowers of Verbena bonariensis

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Glaucous leaves of this Euphorbia afford a good background for the seed heads of Amaryllis. Close by another Euphorbia, griffithii “Dixter”, dies to a bright pink in stem and leaf.

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The sword-like Iris leaves are similarly glaucous and they enrich the deepest pink of Huskers Red Pentstemon. A beautiful combination!

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The white stems of Betula utilis jacqemontii “Silver Queen” glow against the evergreen background afforded by the Red Robin. In the same bed two varieties of deciduous Euonymus are changing into reds and pinks and busy white bell shaped flowers of Arbutus, the Strawberry Tree hang in full bunches. We have never seen so many flowers on our Arbutus before so we are anticipating a profusion of “strawberries” later on.

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On the grass giant fungi sit like plates, dining plates for the slugs that feast on them.

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Autumn colour is particularly well advanced on the Cercis “Forest Pansy”, Stransvesia and Amelanchier. The strange pink flowers of Lobelia tupa appear in a different place each year as they migrate around the Hot Border.

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Moving into the back garden via the shade border we find the contrasting leaf shapes of Inula and ferns.

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Arriving in the Rill Garden we can appreciate how the remnant flowers of the Pelargoniums match the berries strung out along the stems of the Cotoneaster.

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These Ornithogalum are a new plant for us this year – we are so glad we grew them. It seems an awful long time ago we planted the bulbs in their big terracotta pots. In the border behind them the leaves of the Witch Hazel are colouring up nicely in patterns, the Hypericum berries are now shiny black and the Echinops flowers sit stiffly on rigid stems like silvery blue spheres.

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Looking down the central path of the back garden the glowing red fruit of Apple Scrumptious still decorate the arch over the path.

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I shall feature a few special favourites and then create a gallery for you to enjoy to illustrate what else is going on in the back garden. Schistostylus are a real late autumn flower but can flower at any time, some responding to the first frosts before they show. We have just bought this pale pink one but have enjoyed the red one for years now.

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How about this for a Salvia – you can’t get blue much richer or deeper than this! The Persicaria is P. aucuparia Firetail which produces its poker-like flowers for months through the summer and autumn. Some of the flower heads at the moment are a good 3 inches long and an inch wide.

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These two umbrella shaped flower heads are very different in habit. The glowing pink Sedum sits low to the ground on floppy glaucous stems while the Vernonia stands proud aloft tall 4 foot rigid stems.

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An archway leading to the pool and Japanese Garden is covered in the red leaves of Vitis purpurea and alongside the pool is this willow. The stems of the Violet Willow are covered in a white bloom from now through to the spring when the winter rains return them to deep violet-black.

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Now enjoy a wander around the back garden to see what October has in store for us to appreciate.

autumn autumn colours climbing plants colours flowering bulbs fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening grasses grow your own half-hardy perennials hardy perennials light light quality ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs shrubs succulents trees village gardens

A Garden Bouquet for September

September is the month when the first signs of autumn creep in and there is something special happening to the light. Misty mornings give the garden a fresh atmosphere. Darkness comes too early each day. Fruit picking is the order of the day and we get out our pruning kit, secateurs, pruning saws and loppers large and small to tackle the trees and shrubs.

Grasses begin to change colour, some flowers and seed heads are turning redder and more purple others towards the pale tints of biscuit.

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The Blackberry vine is so heavy with fruit that it blocks the pathway and apples hang in thick bunches but seem slow to ripen. At last colour is creeping into the greenness of the grapes. Fingers crossed that the weather is kind to them and therefore kind to us.

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This Buddleja is a special one with purple flowers at the tip of each arching branch. The out side of each individual flower is dusty purple-grey but the rich bright purple inside provides a beautiful contrast. Buddleys lindleyana is a very special shrub. A real favourite! And it looks even better alongside a bright orange neighbour in the guise of a Crocosmia. While we are on the subject of bright flowered Crocosmia the yellow one nearby is gentler but still a true bright beauty.

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Shrubs and trees are thinking ahead to the winter and painting their leaves in reds, oranges and yellows. The first two photos are of a special Ribes which will give us yellow flowers in the winter. These are followed by deciduous varieties of Euonymus and Cercis “Forest Pansy”.

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On the gravel garden, our Beth Chatto Garden, grasses are starring alongside the autumn stars, Michaelmas Daisies.

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Bulbs usually mean late winter or early spring but these cyclamen and tulbaghia are showstoppers right now.

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So off we go into autumn!