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My Garden Journal – October

So here we are with the tenth post in the “My Garden Journal” monthly series highlighting the changes that we see, hear and smell each month in our Shropshire garden at our home “Avocet”. Our garden open days have finished for the year and we have hosted our last visiting group for the year, so we have the garden to ourselves and our wildlife. From April to September we are open on set days and to visiting groups and although we love sharing our garden there is a feeling of letting go a bit once October arrives a sort of end of term feeling.

We will be busy taking hardwood cuttings and potting on those we struck last autumn. Our greenhouse becomes home to our more delicate plants, our Aeoniums, Salvias, and Echeverias. We put up bubble wrap as a cosy duvet for them and put the heating on gently.

My first page in my journal for October refers to the changing light the month brings.

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“Autumn is most definitely with us, its special low light with its own intensity and identity gives the garden its coat of many colours. Sedum give us flowers of pink to purple rising from its succulent leaves. 

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“October began by continuing September’s Indian Summer. We are enjoying blue skies and warm temperatures. Luxuries for the gardeners, who can use these special moments to sit in the sun, drink tea and drink in the colourful richness in every border.”

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My journal moved on to consider the changing colours which is symbolic of this season. The quote I have selected for October from Jenny Joseph also looks at October’s colours.

“The fire that October first brings to me is what has started in September. It is the woods flaming; not terrifying summer fires in some afforested countries, but the fire with no heat, no destruction. The torch that sets fire to our woods, hedges, trees in roads and gardens, blazing through cool damp darkening days is the sap withdrawing. It is a dying that can make us gasp at the intensity and great range of colour.”

In my journal I wrote “All those myriad shades of green that had been acting as foils for the colours of flowers are now coming to the fore. It is their turn to be the stars! As we move into autumn more deeply the green recedes to reveal yellows, oranges and reds. Our Euphorbia griffithii “Fireglow” glows yellow with thin red lines drawn on.”

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“We grow two different varieties of Hamamelis x intermedia, Jelena and Diana, mostly for their bright late winter/early spring flowers but in autumn they give us the same orange and red colours.”

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On the following pages I discuss the birds that visited our garden during October, the Merlin and the Little Owl. I hope you enjoy looking at my coloured pencil crayon drawing as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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“Most of our Summer Migrant birds have left us. Firstly the Swifts and the Cuckoos left us in July and then the Warblers and the sky dancers, Swallows and House Martins.

We have been surprised to spot two birds which until recently would also have flown to warmer climes. Some of our summer visitors now stay with us. Early in October we spotted a male Merlin hunting along the lane from our house, moving and manoevring low to the ground in definite hunting mood.

Recently we heard the call of Little Owls, their piercing sounds were more those of a yapping Terrier than those of an owl.”

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“In our “Secret Garden” we grow a miniature Chestnut, Aesculus mutabilis “Induta”. We forgive it for its ugly name as we love it all year. It gives salmon-pink new foliage in the spring which is followed by upright panicles of pinky-salmon flowers loved by the bees. Flowers are followed by little “conkers”, then in autumn the foliage turns the brightest yellow. When the foliage falls beautiful silvery-grey bark shines through the winter.”

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I featured the seed heads of Phlomis and Acer rufinerve in my journal pages for September. As we move through October more plants produce seed heads worthy of starring roles. Echinops, Eremurus, Eryngium and Crocosmia.”

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November will take us deeper into the autumn which this year is proving to be an exceptionally colourful one.

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Chestnut Trees and a Fence

This may seem a strange title for a post but I had decided to write a post about my favourite flowering tree, the Horse Chestnut but then I came across a beautiful rustic ancient fence made from the wood of a chestnut tree.

Our native chestnuts come with two flower colours white or red. The white is more common and flowers a little earlier than the red.

The first photo shows chestnuts in parkland around the gardens of Cerney House.

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The white flowers look particularly good against a blue sky on an early summer’s day. It shows up the pastel shades in the centre, yellow and orange.

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The red, or perhaps pink may be a better description, coloured flowers are very dramatic. We found this specimen along the driveway to Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery in Cheshire.

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In our own garden we grow a miniature chestnut.

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It is small enough to grow in a mixed border where its flowers can mix in with Alliums and the last of the Tulips and its leaves contrast strongly with the grass stems we grow alongside it.

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You can see from the photos that it looks a very different colour depending whether you are looking at it into the sun or with the sun behind you. It also boasts beautifully textured ribbed leaves. The bees love the flowers!

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At Croome Park we came across the most beautiful fence, created from the wood of chestnuts. The wood of chestnuts lasts for centuries without any care gradually taking on the most delicate silvery grey colour.

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On a recent visit to a woodland garden in Powis we came across this little shrub tucked away in the shade of tall trees. We guessed it was another Chestnut. It had beautiful leaves with dark central veining. Can anyone shed light on this?

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Our native chestnuts are essential elements of our hedgerows but have recently been under threat from a disease that turns their leaves prematurely yellow and then drop early. They seem to be fighting back so fingers crossed. Our countryside wouldn’t be the same without them.

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Broughton Grange – the outer edges.

Back to Broughton Grange and we can go through the piece of garden architecture, the stumpery arch and find that it becomes a whole garden growing around stumps on the other side. Old stumps were beautifully planted with varieties of Hostas, Ferns and Alchemilla.

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Beautifully curved paths presented us with rich choices. Each path led to interesting specimen trees. Of course I had to start by following the route to the chestnuts, their deep salmon coloured towers of flowers covered even these young trees.

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Cut through the arboretum were straight avenues each featuring a different variety of tree, such as chestnut and lime. This was a an effective contrast to the sinuous paths wriggling through the meadows growing under the young trees throughout the arboretum. These avenues gave long views to the Oxfordshire countryside beyond the boundaries of the garden and parkland.

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So if you like good garden design, interesting plants, trees, meadows and of course the obligatory coffee and cakes and want a good relaxing day out keep an eye on the website for Broughton Grange and make sure you go along and see it for yourself.

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A Wander around our Garden in April.

Flowering Currant and Muscari.

It is already into the fourth month of the year and so this is the fourth in this monthly series of garden wandering posts. So much happens in April, so many plants start into growth, so many seeds are sown and the weather changes so often. Frost, hail, sun, mild, cold, windy, calm – everything comes randomly and we gardeners get caught out inappropriately clothed. Wildlife is equally confused, with bees, hoverflies, butterflies and wasps appearing on warmer days and disappearing as soon as it cools down again.

Taking advantage of some bonus sunshine.

Some spring bulbs are going over while others are in full swing, some tree blossoms are going over while others are just coming into flower. There is so much to do in the garden, productive or ornamental, and it feels good to be out there doing it.

How red can a flower be!

As soon as April arrives we know the garden will look and feel differently every day. Come around our garden with me and my camera and see what is going on.

The front garden glows in the afternoon sunshine, with every shade of green in new herbaceous growth splattered with the many colours of bulbs.

The Hot Border.
Euphorbias below white-stemmed birches.

The Shade Garden is soon to reach its peak time, with its fresh leafy growth and the tiny, pale jewels of flowers. Pulmonarias, Dicentras, Anemones, Arums and Corydalis are all budding up and beginning to flower while the ferns are hardly showing any signs of awakening.

The Shade Garden bursting into life.
China blue pulmonaria.
Pale pink pulmonaria.
Silver splashed Arum leaves.
Primrose yellow Anemone.

On the gravel patch, which we call our “Chatto Garden”, new foliage is bursting through. Irises, Euphorbias are starting into healthy growth. The large terra-cotta pot of bulbs is bubbling over with the blue of Muscari and a sprinkling of tiny mauve species Tulips.

The glaucous sword shaped iris leaves.
Spears of Euphorbia griffithii "Dixter" piercing the gravel.
The thistle like spiked and variegated Galactites tomentosa.
Muscari blue and tulip mauve give a gentle colourway to the big pot.
Bright welcome at the gate - yellow Mahonia and red Cydonia.

Trees and shrubs are a little later coming to life in the spring, the miniature Chestnut’ sticky buds are only just bursting while the Amelanchier lamarckii and Spiraea “The Bride” are in their full white ball gowns.

"The Bride" is always such a good arching shape.
The long arching raceme of Spiraea.
Amelanchier blossom like delicate stars.
Chestnut buds burst out in salmons, russets and reds.

In the side garden by our main entrance the two potted apple trees are in full flower, with blossoms of many shades of pink, promising lots of juicy fruit to enjoy. We have added a second House Sparrow nesting box giving six nest holes altogether and hopefully a little less noisy bickering. The new box is apartment living as opposed to the terraced original. Right by our doorstep is a pot of violas in an unusual colour combination of  blue and brown. In front of the garage door our replanted alpine troughs are beginning to come to life.

Our miniature apple trees welcome callers.
Apple blossoms - pink beauties.
Sparrow city.
Alpine troughs protected from the cold winds.
Unusual colour combination.

Wandering into the back garden it is hard to know where to point the lens first as so much is happening. The fruit trees are in blossom, tulips add their jewel colours in every border and new leaves are appearing on most shrubs and perennials.

A mass of Damson blossom against a blue sky.
Jude, "The Undergardener" at work in the "Shed Bed".

The garden is full of sound, scents and movement. In the pools Pond Skaters perform their dances on the surface and tadpoles wriggle in black masses in the shallow pebble bay. Around each flowering shrub bees and hoverflies flit and buzz. In nearby fields Skylarks sing their “high in the sky” songs and the haunting call of Curlews reach us from the damp land alongside the nearby fishery. But the strangest sound of all is the regular sound of Tawny Owls calling to each other – have they lost their biological clocks? The calling starts mid-afternoon on most days.

Lush growth at the pool side.

Scent is provided by Viburnum, Mahonias, Wallflowers, Flowering Currants, Hyancinths, Daffodils and the last of the flowers on the Daphnes. Herby scents come with the new fresh greens of the mints, thymes, marjorams and fennel.

Strong in scent beautiful in colour, the last flowers on the Daphne.
The complex flower head of a viburnum.

In the Secret Garden it is the tulips that take centre stage, in so many colours and shapes.

The Secret Garden awakens in Spring.
The darkest orange tulip.

Some of the most impressive new foliage is to be found on our acers, growing under the trees we grow as a wind break, acid green, lemon yellow, flaming orange and salmon.

New brightly coloured foliage shines in mottled shade.
Glowing red fresh, new leaves.

We have eventually relented and cut down the last of our many grasses. We leave them as late as possible and often leave some too late  and end up cutting new growth coming up within the old. This Miscanthus napalensis was left until last, understandably.

Old grass and new acer.

Just to show how fickle the month of April can be, the day after I took the photos for this blog we woke to three inches of snow and large flakes continued to fall all morning. Many tulips and daffodils were flattened and our clump of Black Bamboo was pinned to the ground by the sheer weight of snow.

Iris swords piercing the snow.

I shall finish with two shots – one before the snow and one after. This lovely old oak tree root is our miniature stumpery – all we have room for!