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My Garden Journal 2017 – October

We can now look at what I wrote about, photographed and painted during October in my Garden Journal.

On the first page of my October Garden Journal I proposed a “fifth season” for us gardeners, a special one just for us  gardeners, but unfortunately I have so far been unable to think up a suitable name. I have spoken to a few other gardeners about this and they understood exactly what I was talking about. See what you think!

“October, the tenth month of the year, but what season is it in? But before I even look at the appropriate season there is some already some confusion over the name October, which derives from the Latin “octo” meaning eight. October was indeed the eighth month in the Roman calendar.

So let me look at the seasons again and consider where October sits. Is it the end of summer, so we can say October is in “Late Summer” or is it the first month of Autumn so then we can identify October being in “Early Autumn”.

I believe that with the changes to our climate and the developments in garden design and the increases in plant availability at this cross-over period we need a fifth garden season, comprising just September and October. Whatever name we could label it by, it would definitely be my favourite season! As for a suitable name? Perhaps we could call it the “Indian Summer” …… unless someone comes up with a fresh name, a more expressive one!”

On the opposite page I chose a few pics to show the special feel of this new season and I wrote, Our Avocet patch looking special and full of atmosphere in its “5th Season”.

Over the page I continued to look at this time in the garden with its special colours in foliage and seed heads.

“Flowers colours are changing as plants begin to form seeds. The new colours are more subtle and perhaps even subdued, but the low light of this month gives them special qualities. Insects still search plants for the final diminishing supplies of  nectar and perhaps a few drops of pollen.”

  

 

“The big show-stoppers of October though are the colours of fire and sunsets that appear as leaves lose their chlorophyl and allow new colours to take over.”

   

Turning over I move away from the garden in autumn and have a look at the changing fortunes of shrubs in our gardens.

“Shrubs are making a comeback in gardening and definitely in our garden. Over the last few years we have been adding many shrubs into our borders to add a layer of interest between trees and herbaceous planting. Garden centres stock only a limited range of common generally dull shrubs most of which have been around for decades. We are lucky to have two nurseries close to us just over the border into Wales close to the town of Welshpool. The Dingle and The Derwen just ten minutes drive apart are owned by the same family and specialise in trees and shrubs. They are our source of  inspiring plants.”

Some shrubs are grown for their dense foliage and growth habit which let us grow them as a hedge. We use our Buxus (Box) shrubs as a hedge we can shape in whatever form we want.”

“Other shrubs we grow for flowers and berries.”

 

Clerodendron trichitoma fargesii, grown for its eccentric flowers and berries. Luma apiculata grown for variegated foliage, coloured stems and white scented flowers.”

 

“Hypericum are grown for stunning flowers and berries. Hypericum inodorum give us yellow flowers and all sorts of  colours of berries.” 

“Roses provide flowers, scent and hips. Mahonia Winter Sun shines with yellow scented flowers in autumn  followed by purple-black berries in the winter.”

My next double page spread features the wonderful miniature shrub Ceratostigma plumbaginoides which I painted with my new set of Japanese brush pens.

I hope you enjoy looking at my paintings as much as I loved creating them.

 

I also chose Ceratostigma plumbaginoides as my plant of the month for October.

 

“Ceratostigma plumbaginoides is a colourful stalwart of the early autumn mixed border, albeit a little diminutive, growing to just 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide. This beauty is a sub-shrub which bears its rich blue blossom from July to November, and as autumn arrives its foliage turns from apple green to rich red.”

For the final page this month I take a look at white in the garden and wrote, “I have never been a fan of white in the garden be it furniture or flowers, but in October I see quite a few plants featuring white have crept in.”

Here are just a few!

    

Next time we pay a visit to my Garden Journal we will be in the penultimate month of 2017, November. I wonder what our eleventh month will bring?

 

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Bodnant Garden – a magical place in North Wales

For my last post of 2016 I thought I would share a visit we made to one of our favourite gardens, Bodnant Gardens in North Wales. A great way to celebrate our garden visiting exploits in 2016 and to look forward to visiting many more wonderful UK gardens in 2017.

Bodnant Gardens, a National Trust Property in North Wales, is described as a “glorious garden nestling in the Snowdonia foothills of North Wales and one of the world’s most magical gardens. With its dramatic scenery, historic plant collections, Champion Trees and myriad horticultural styles, it will capture your heart and live in your memory.”

It is just possible for us to get there, enjoy a day wandering and then return on the same day. So this is a day trip we have made many times over the years in different months but never before in November. We were not sure exactly what to expect but our expectations were definitely high. We were not to be in for the slightest disappointment!

After a two hour drive we arrived as mist and drizzle did its best to hide the garden but after our usual half hour sit for a coffee and cake we were  pleased to see the beauty of the garden revealed as the autumn sunlight brought the garden to life before our eyes setting the scene for an afternoon of pure magic, which we will share with you in a couple of posts.

Firstly this post will be all about the special nature of the light and how it added extra magic to the scenes unfolding before us.

After showing our membership cards we left the reception and upon entering the garden itself we only managed a few steps before the special light stopped us in our tracks. A long border running alongside a tall stone wall was on fire with the rich colours of late perennial flowers and the red and orange leaves of shrubs. The overnight dew was still hanging on the grass and every droplet became a jewel.

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From the path running along the centre of the hot fiery bed we could look across towards the main garden where the light caught Acer foliage and wispy perennials.

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Individual flowers among this beauty, shone like jewels in a jeweller’s shop window display. Water droplets sat on the red blooms of this Fuschia and Salvia.

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We had plenty of choices of pathways to follow but the choice was an easy one – go where the colours shone the brightest – off in to the newly created Winter Garden beneath a halo or red glowing foliage.

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With so much colour and texture surrounding us it was hard to home in to see the special beauty only to be found by looking closely and deeply searching for the detail.

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Bodnant proved itself a most worthy contender for garden visiting late in the year and could well join the little group of special places we visit annually. In part two of my Bodnant posts we will share other parts of the garden with you, the places further afield than the Winter Garden.

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Simply Beautiful 8 – Tetrapanax leaves

Tetrapanax papyfera Rex is a wonderful albeit rather tender foliage plant with large exotic looking leaves. In winter the leaves darken before falling and look simply beautiful.

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Simply Beautiful – 5 – purple and gold

We enjoy growing Hostas in all shapes, sizes and colours many in the garden and almost as many in pots. We simply love them! We often reach the time when we think we have room for no new ones. Until! Until we spot a special one that calls to us!

Our latest member of the Hosta family to join us is called H. Purple Heart. It had beautiful rich apple green leaves but the what made this Hosta special was the purple colour of its leaf stalk and central vein.

In the autumn the plant becomes totally different. Simply beautiful! The beauty is short lived as the autumn foliage soon rots and the glossy purple stems soon follow. All we have then is a pot topped off with its grit.

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Simply Beautiful – 4 – ugly name beautiful flower

Late in the year little surprises appear in the garden to stop you in your tracks. These are often out of season flowerings but beauty can also be found in the way plants gracefully fade away at the year’s end. Piet Oudolf reckons that to be a good garden worthy plant, a plant must die beautifully. When you visit any of the gardens designed by him in the winter you can identify with his idea and he is excellent at using such plants.

These little sparkling garden gems were  brightly coloured a few weeks back with cerise and metallic blue colouring but they remain beautiful in their new winter colours. It is the shrub called Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii. Ugly name but beautiful plant!

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The Dorothy Clive Garden in November

Our November visit to see the changing faces of this lovely Shropshire/Staffordshire border garden saw us arriving in sunshine but we were to be treated to a magnificent sky later in the day.

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The grass below our feet was wet with the heavy dew from the night hours and it sparkled and glowed in the low autumnal rays of the sun. We just knew we were in for a good day! The two signs near to where we parked up hinted at the joys of autumn we would find and also at the fact that a painting course was being held in the gardens. There always seems to be something going on here as well as the beauty of the garden itself.

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We always love the first few minutes of our visits here, when we get the first views out across the garden and get an idea of what the day may have in store for us. We immediately noticed that the Viburnum which we have never been able to identify had now lost the vibrancy of its red-purple hanging foliage and there was no sign of the richly glossy red and black berries. Instead a white feather hung to one of the last remaining leaves. Nearby in the border leading to the tea house yellow dominated, foliage of a tall Calamagrostis grass, an out of season golden yellow Phlomis whorl of flowers and the delicate seedheads of Agapanthus.

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Looking out from the tea shop through its large panoramic window we noticed the light glistening on the dew still hanging on covering the grass and the outdoor seats and tables. As I took the pics of the dew Jude the Undergardener/ Mrs Greenbench looked out from the warmth enjoying tea and cake and the beautiful seasonal table centre bouquet.

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As we re-entered the chill we noticed that the Nerine outside the cafe which we enjoyed in flower last month was parading its glossy black berries. Dew on the deeaply pleated Melianthus leaves increased their glaucous hue. The gardeners were busy cutting, taking under cover or protecting the tender plants around the cafe terrace. In the hot borders many tender perennials such as Dahlia, Salvias and Echiums were already safely put away leaving swathes of bare cold soil in their wake.

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Seed heads have darkened and the scaffolding of stems have become more skeletal during the late autumn and produced a beauty all of their own for our delectation.

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Leaves and fruit add richness and depth to the more limited November colour palette.

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Side by side two completely different plants, one an Aesculus, one a Fuchsia present the same pinkish-cream colour, the first within its leaf and the second in its faded pink flowers. Beautiful to see them side by side!

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Without a doubt my favourite family of shrubs is the deciduous Euonymus and they are always such exciting plants with unusual stems, bark, flowers and berries. Naturally I was delighted to come across this beautiful little shrub, Eouonymus alatus nana with beautiful subtle pink colouring to the autumn foliage and deep purple with orange flowers and berries.

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So our eleventh visit to Dorothy Clive was such a worthwhile, even exciting day for us with such an unusual sky event lighting up the gardens for a little while. Our next visit in December will be the final one so we will see what the year end brings to this wonderful place.

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Arboreta in Autumn – part 1- Bluebell Arboretum

The highlight of every autumn season has to be visiting various arboreta of which there are many within a day’s drive. Our first visit this year was to Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery situated in Derbyshire near the town with the wonderful rather eccentric name of  Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The nursery specialises in rare and unusual shrubs and trees and every plant they sell is of excellent quality.

Within the first 5 minutes of our wander around the arboretum we had discovered a lovely variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. Betulas, Acers, Clethras, Euonymus and Hydrangeas.

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But of course you can find little clumps of the brightest of colours, orange as in these Kniphofias.

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We enjoyed close up views of fruits and flowers in between having to step backwards to appreciate the full beauty of specimen trees.

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In close proximity to trees we always take a close look at textures on their bark.

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Of course being autumn time we were here largely to view the colours of the season. The leaves of this Cotinus were turning red slowly beginning with splashes of colour between the veins, giving a great contrast of reds and greens. Liquidamber turn deep shades of red through the autumn and hold onto their coloured foliage until the early spring. The first leaves to turn can provide almost black shades amongst the greens.

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This oak displayed foliage in the deepest orange and had the interesting name “Quercus x Warii “Chimney Sweep”.

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Where autumnal colours are concerned none could be brighter than this deciduous Euonymus.

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Luckily for us the nurseryman were well into a trial of new strains of Physocarpus opulifolius, those shrubs that afford us the glossy almost black foliage. At home we grow the well established “Diablo” but we were pleased to be able to study newer varieties with differeing tints of colour working amongst the black, such as “Diablo D’or” . In the next few years we will be seeing some interesting improved variations on “Diablo”.

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I shall finish the first part of our visit to the Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery with a look at a few specimens of my favourite trees the Birches, grown as usual for their incredible coloured and textured trunks. These three photos show how the trunks can vary from white to black with colours in between.

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We shall continue our tour of this great little and relatively young arboretum in part 2.

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The Leaf

A few days ago as I was on my way down the ramp into the back garden I was met by a leaf on its way in.

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I knew immediately from which tree it had come – a Cotoneaster in the side garden in the Freda Border. It had traveled a fair distance for such a little fella! It shows how well you get to know the plants in your garden when you can recognise exactly which tree a single leaf comes from. We have a dozen or so different Cotoneasters gracing our patch but this little leaf told me exactly which one it came from. Its shape, its colours, its textures all provide clues.

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The leaf was still showing off its autumn colours, proud in shades of yellow and orange with a touch of green as a reminder of the summer long gone. Some trees keep hold of their old leaves until a new one pops along to push it off its branch. Our Cotoneaster had done just that to our leaf.

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When turned over the leaf took on a new look, slightly greyed with the look of being seen through tissue paper. Each colour subdued and more subtle! It curled upwards which made it create shadows shaped like a new moon.

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But we can’t leave this post without having a look at its mother tree. Its leaves a mixture of fresh green and faded colours of autumn. It looks especially colouful against a blue wintery sky.

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December Sunrise

What a delightful way to wake up! We woke to this most beautiful sunrise possible today and watched as the colours got richer and the whole sky brighter. Then we watched as it cooled down, the colours disappearing and the sky becomeing a typical cold December morning sky.

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Aiming for an all year round garden – our garden in November

The penultimate posting in my monthly look at how well our Avocet garden is looking is already here. We are aiming for an all year round garden so we hope this series will help us check up on how we are progressing. The first week of November has been so changeable with bright, mild days, windy chilly days, nights with near freezing temperatures and cloudy dull days. We can still get in the garden to potter but we have to be ready to grasp any opportunity.

As usual we shall begin our tour by the gateway at the end of the drive and take a glance into the garden where it borders the lane. Our newly planted boxes are now well-established. From the lane berries dominate in the shrubs and trees and below them leaf textures capture our interest.

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The Beth Chatto garden lights up in the low autumn light and makes the Tulbaghia and Verbena flowers glow.

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Leaves have been stripped from many of the shrubs and trees leaving skeletons of coloured stems and seed heads above grasses and coloured foliage of evergreen perennials. Fungi on the lawn are definite sign of the season.

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The most colourful tree must be the Liquidamber. With luck it will keep its leaves until the new year.

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As we pass the shed on the way into the back garden this little alpine Erodium catches the eye. But it is the much more fiery colours that draw us in for a closer look as we turn the corner and see the Shed Bed. The bright yellow petals of the Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambrica bring out the palest hues in the palmate leaves of the Ricine Plant, Ricinus cambriensis. The Ricinus is such a garden worthy annual, interesting in every possible way. Flowers, fruit, buds, leaves and stems. The heavily textured leaves begin life orange and metamorphose into the deepest bronze through every shade of red.

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In the Tropical Border the white flowers show up well against the Persicaris  deep purple foliage. By the pond in the Rill Garden the seedheads of this Clematis are just as white. Walking down the central pathway there are plenty of out of season blooms to spot. Rosa Teasing Georgia clambers over the arch with late flowering Sweet Peas and alongside the path an orange flowered Primula which is normally a late spring flowerer is performing now. In a pot alongside the path a Dahlia has produced a very late and very pink bloom.

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Throughout the borders to the left of the central path grasses put on a strong performance in the autumn light. The cerise of the Lychnis coronaria looks brighter than ever. It has been in flower for months now.

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Moving across the central path we can see the Chicken Garden and the Secret Garden, where there are still plenty of flowers to put on a colourful show.

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When we take the path alongside the Spring Garden it is the fruit and berries that give extra interest for ourselves and for the Blackbirds and Thrushes. The Blackbirds seem intent in finishing off the Crataegus berries. The yellow berries of the Cotoneaster rothschildiana will last much longer. They are low on their list of favourites.

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I shall finish my November look at our garden with these two photos both featuring yellow. On the left a very out of season Oxlip is flowering strongly while on the left the last of the Gazanias has dropped its petals to reveal a brightly coloured central boss. Next month I shall be considering our Avocet garden in December and my look at the garden in 2014 will have come full circle.

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