As September finishes, I can already see signs of autumn, with a drop in temperature, our first real storm of the season and gathering flocks of starlings in the treetops. Some of the trees around the estate starting to change colour, with hints of fiery orange, buttery yellow and all different shades of red beginning to creep in. The arboretums really do put on a show at this time of year, particularly when viewed from the top of the castle. We just received our main bulb delivery and will soon be planting. We have our usual range of tulips, hyacinths and a few more unusual species for the herbaceous border and poison garden. Although we use a certain amount of what I would term ‘bedding bulbs’ I much prefer to use bulbs that can survive in our climate and will settle in and spread, as they represent much better value for money. We have had great success with woodland anemones and bluebells on some of our walks and this year we are adding some large drifts of crocus on some of the main lawn areas and some new groups of daffodils in our meadows. Our apples and other fruit have been picked and harvested and we have made our usual organic apple juice, cider, ice creams and jams which we will be selling in the cafe and shop. It has all proved to be very popular with the tourists and locals. Pick apples and pears as they ripen, and store them in trays with shredded newspaper, straw, or cardboard liners. For storage the temperature needs to be cool but not frosty. Most homes will be too warm so it’s better to store them in a shed or garage, as long as they are rodent-proof. Windfall or bruised fruit is better used in desserts, jams or wine making. This is traditionally the time for cutting back, tidying and preparing for the winter. I have started to watch the overnight temperatures, and we have already started to move some of our tender specimen plants from the Jungle Border and Fern Garden into their winter homes in our glasshouse and poly tunnel. Winter bedding will be planted out over the next few weeks. We have started using heathers in quite a lot of our tubs and they seem to last well through our damp winters. Skimmias provide a good Christmassy look with their red berries and we are trying some red and white cyclamen around the main entrance beds. We generally mix in a few other things such as gaultheria, variegated ivy and small cordylines just to add to the interest and brighten up the beds over the duller months. I have given up using winter pansy and viola as they don’t generally perform well with us. Jobs for October include, tie in and cutting back of raspberry and loganberry canes if you haven’t already, bulb planting around the garden, apply autumn fertiliser to lawns, lift and divide herbaceous plants if you need to, and cut them back as they die down, stop feeding indoor plants now, tidy up beds, borders and glasshouses and make plans for next year. There is still some good late summer colour in the borders, especially around our Seven Siters, and this will soon be followed by the autumn show.
I look forward to seeing you in the gardens. Adam