Garden Manager Andrew Bentley tells us about the latest garden happenings as we come to the end of September.
“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; Lengthen night and shorten day; Every leaf speaks bliss to me, Fluttering from the autumn tree. I shall smile when wreaths of snow Blossom where the rose should grow; I shall sing when night’s decay Ushers in a drearier day.”
Fall Leaves Fall, Emily Brontë, (1818 – 1848)
I’m not a scholar of poetry and admit I don’t understand the message in Brontë’s poem here…does she dislike autumn so longs for the next season, or is she enjoying the transformation of the landscape after a long summer period? Despite my lack of understanding, the poem speaks to me. There is a sense of restlessness and change in this season that I feel is more dramatic than any other, and it is one of the reasons that autumn is my favourite time of year…and why I enjoy Brontë’s poem!
Autumn is officially here
September is where it all begins. It is the month of the official start of autumn. One day I think to myself how well summer is holding on, then the next morning I sense the crispness in the air and see the mists enveloping trees in the distance. The sky appears hazier in the morning but sharper as the day wears on. I find myself pondering in front of my wardrobe early morning (usually around 05.30) about wearing slightly thicker shirts. Resisting the temptation to throw on a jumper just yet…or I shall suffer over the long winter months from my lack of hardiness! Like my herbaceous plants I shall wither and bow to the encroaching cold and feebly retire to a warm retreat (perhaps the polytunnel or shed, armed with a flask of hot cocoa!).
‘Jack ‘O’ Lantern’ Pumpkins
The garden has not given up on us yet though. The grass has dogged determination to grow faster than ever, buoyed on by reasonably warm days and more rain to quench its thirst, we cut it on day one and by day two its fresh new long growth seems to wave mockingly at us as we sheepishly walk past to attend to other matters.
A rose by any other name…
Roses all around the garden have sprung back to life. Whatever their type they appear determined to put on a late show and surprise visitors with spectacular floral displays. Most satisfying for myself is to see the twenty ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Roses flanking the central path in the walled garden continue to bloom ever more profusely. Only in their second year – I planted them last April – they continue to provide such pleasure and delight to people when I announce their variety.
Pride and Prejudice rose
The walled garden proves it’s worth at this time of year. It creates a microclimate that favours the plants and extends their season if they have the energy to continue (which I encourage through pruning and organic feeds to supplement their diets!). Our three varieties of Strawberries continue to flower and then fruit – what would Mrs Elton have to say in Emma? The cut flower beds provide the ‘wow’ factor for dazzling colour from a range of flowers such as Sunflowers, Rudbeckia, Cosmos and Salvia. These beds are a magnet for our Honey bees and other pollinators and so help the health of the ecosystem as well as aid the production of wonderful honey.
Most of the apple trees in our orchard are heaving with fruits and I encourage visitors to help themselves to reduce the amount of windfalls I have to clear up on a daily basis! I put down the success of this year’s bumper crop to our traditional wassail we held back in January which encouraged the trees to wake from their winter slumber and fruit abundantly…
Speaking of gardens…
I gave plenty of garden tours during the month and one very successful evening lecture at a local gardening club, where I talked about our Elizabeth Blackwell herb garden – its design, creation and the plants within it. I really enjoy going out and giving these talks as it helps us reach a new and wider audience and hopefully entices people to visit and see for themselves. Often the talks are to learned and experienced horticulturists and I usually come away knowing more about gardening and gardens than I did when I arrived – isn’t that the way it should be? As I was told as a child, we were given one mouth but two ears for a reason!