Colour before the fall

Deciduous plants are nearing their prime in terms of colour. Autumn has as much interest as spring – if not more – with small dramas breaking out all over the garden.

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I want more of these cyclamen.

It is the time of the aster..

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..and the liriope.

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A callicarpa (for Babs)..

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Miscanthus are perfect in this light..

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..and liriodendron is butter yellow against an evening contrail.

The variety of colour this year is quite incredible. Perhaps the long hot summer has something to do with it.

A good year for fruiting trees too with an abundance of berries for the birds to feast on.

Time feels suspended – if only by wanting it to be. Winter’s on it’s way but an amazing show is happening in the meanwhile. Lots to do, lots to look at too.

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Autumn

Autumn mornings are damp and heavy with dew. Mist flows downhill and gathers in areas where it is obstructed.

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The sun rises late these days; usually after we have left for work so we miss how it catches the last of the mist.

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The deciduous plants are hanging on to their leaves for now, slowly changing colour every day with some spectacular results.

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Liquidambar
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Tupelo

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Cherry
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Spindle
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Cornus and sedum
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Rhus

Autumn is the perfect season for propagation. I’ve been busy splitting perennials, planting seeds and bulbs and doing cuttings. There’s also more than 200 trees to be planted in the next month or so but the shorter days catch me by surprise and it’s dark before I know it. Winter is coming and soon it will be time to rest and plan, but in the meanwhile there’s work to be done.

September

September’s here again. Wheat has been harvested and the swallows are fattening up for their trip overseas to Africa. Nights are cooler and bring a heavy dew with some mist. Some leaves are starting to turn. Autumn is coming

The extreme summer heat has produced a bountiful harvest. Here’s a few of the treats we’ve enjoyed during late summer.

 

There’s a lot more to enjoy – here’s a few September treats:

 

Winter brassicas are in; string around them will hopefully deter the pigeons. Celeriac, parsnips, beetroot, kale, spinach and leeks will be ready for when the nights are longer – they’ll remind us of the heat and light of the outstanding summer of 2018.

Dry July

Apart from last week’s 4mm of rain June and July have been very dry, very hot. Dramatic cracks have appeared in patches of bare earth; evidence of the underlying clay drying out. The well-established trees are doing fine in the dry heat, but rowan and hawthorn berries are ripening already – at least a month ahead of schedule. Even blackberries – usually a September treat – are already ripe. Early autumn flowering perennials like asters and anemones are in full bloom. Bees avoid the heat of the day, coming out in the morning and evening. Who can blame them; temperatures have been in the mid-thirties for over 10 days now, it has been up to 49 degrees in the poly tunnel. A very hot summer.IMG_0886.jpgExtreme weather; the winter freeze, the dry summer heat.  There’s a lot of talk about this becoming the ‘new normal’. A direct impact of changing climate. Is it too late to prevent catastrophe? Will we be able to adapt to our changing planet? How long before the adaptations become impractical? Against a significant noise of denial, it’s really good to hear these questions being asked.IMG_0889.jpgAt a local level I’m taking a lot of interest in plants that have survived the extremes. We need to change our approach to gardening and horticulture in the UK, and this includes cultivating plants that are more resistant to extreme weather. This change of approach has been achieved with great results in Las Vegas where, for example, xeriscaping has replaced many public lawns with sustainable materials and native plants. This seems a very practical way to approach the ‘new normal’. And it beats waiting for rain.

Colour after rain

Rain today, only 4mm but a real treat to see the rain barrels filling up after so long. Almost immediately patches of grass have gone green. Swallows have been swooping the length of the field filling up with insects that emerged after the rain. Freshly washed colours seem brighter in the low evening light.

This is Inula magnifica and some Eringium alpiniumIMG_0906 (1)

Geranium ‘Orion’ climbing through ghost bramble Rubus cockburnianus IMG_4256

The purple of Lythrum salicaria with some RudbeckiaIMG_4292

Drumstick allium Allium sphaerocephalon with red acerIMG_4258

Agastache rugosa and Gaura lindheimeri (now known as Oenothera lindheimeri)IMG_4253

Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’IMG_0900

Sanguisorba menziesii and stipaIMG_4353

Sanguisorba obtusa and hollyhocksIMG_4285

Scabious ‘Black night’ with cornflowers and a strawflowerIMG_4294

Echinacea pallidaIMG_4313

Hopefully there was enough rain to permeate the dry earth – we are forecast to have another very hot week.

July

A seemingly endless progression of sunny hot days – quite unusual: very dry and very warm. The flocks of house sparrows are up at dawn, later to sleep at 7:00pm precisely. After that the quiet is only broken by blackbirds, the occasional overhead flight or train, and the very distant sound of the A-road.

Photography light in July is best in the evenings when it sinks behind trees and lights up the borders from the side. These are Crocosmia and Persicaria.IMG_0902Agastache and Deschampsia; great companions.IMG_0851Blues and silvers of Catananche caerulea.IMG_0869Golden RudbeckiaIMG_0863The giant oat grass Stipa gigantiaIMG_0892Steel blues of sea holly Eringium aplinumIMG_0843And in the white border some white Echinacea purpurea IMG_0828

July is when the season starts to change, very slightly at first. Things like Asters and Japanese anemones start to appear – not flowering yet but soon. Berries, apples and pears are ripening, the few remaining cherries are a feast for wasps and brave birds. We are very happy to see the Indian Bean tree flowering more prolifically than ever.IMG_0868

Making hay

We’ve now had about 6 weeks without rain, days above 20 degrees and lots of sun. Perfect summer. The hedgerow and new trees are really starting to feel the heat, with a few shrivelling and dropping all of their leaves. I’m hoping this is just a ‘resting response’. We’ve developed a plan to do some watering at the weekend – more on that if it happens. I got an email for the Woodland Trust reminding about the importance of removing weeds and grass from around the newly-planted trees, so I guess this should be a primary objective.

The field grass has been spectacular this year. Rain fell at the perfect time in spring and early summer, resulting in lush growth that is thick at the bottom and not so tall that it falls over in the wind. The sun has baked it a beautiful golden colour, and alongside the surrounding wheat fields the whole area has turned gold.IMG_4347

Tracks made in the (then very muddy) field earlier in the year are nearly gone.IMG_0865

July is time to harvest the field grass to make hay. I’m always reluctant at this time. I like the long grass, the movement in the wind, the warm colours especially in the evening, and the abundance of life within it. But still, cutting is essential maintenance and without it the field would soon become a wilderness of thistle and nettle – which would be great for wildlife but not very useful to humans. And if we are to plant more trees we need to keep the weeds away for now.

Sean arrived last night on his massive tractor, making very quick work of the field which was all cut in about an hour. IMG_0880

The hay will lie for a day or so (very quick in this heat) after which it will be baled and then taken away – sometimes as far as Wales – for livestock feed.

Combine harvesters will soon work their way through the adjacent fields. In the meanwhile it is good to enjoy the evenings when everything turns gold.IMG_0892