As the days shorten and the temperature drops, there is a feeling of Autumn in the air. The Garden is still vibrant, but here and there she is showing her age –the withered leaves at the base of day lilies, crocosmia with strings of bead-like seed pods. And in the last week the grass has been mown beneath the crab apples and the Turkey oaks.

The weather has been extreme. Winter was still dragging on for much of April, and then after a fine Bank Holiday, May settled into cold weather. Plants were up to a month behind their average growth. The bright spot was that the volunteers seemed to get the better of several perennial weeds. At the end of May the temperature rose, and the trees in blossom were particularly noticeable: the crab apples; the great white cherry by the entrance and the fragrant viburnum bodnantense at its side, and, of course, the delight of the Cherry Bowl. Jenny Halstead, our artist-in-residence for the year, has colourfully evoked the Bowl at different seasons. A favourite Spring tree though relies not on blossom; for the davidia at the entrance to the Red Border enchants with its ‘handkerchiefs’

June was a dry month, the Gravel Garden was a triumph of planting by Giles: huge euphorbia heads, tall cephalaria, vivid orange poppies and magenta lychnis. Paradoxically the other area to draw attention was the stream. It flowed rapidly, thanks to the new pump, enhancing the planting at its sides. For three years now Pete and the volunteers have struggled with this area: there was the great mud clearing; the attack on flag irises with great knobbly rhizomes which give shelter to all manner of weeds; the replanting of hundreds of primula seedlings. This year it all came good.

We all remember July, one of the hottest, driest months ever to be recorded. Pete spent time moving hose pipes from one part of the Garden to another, and there was concern over the newly-planted rhododendrons. There were thunderstorms at the end of the month, some relief.

By August all the bright jewel colours burn. In the Long Border, thanks to Dave and Monica’s dedication, there are treasures, one of the most noticeable is the stands of phlox, white, purple, red. Everywhere there are daisy-like flowers: echinacea, inula, dahlias. The Autumn border is also a riot of colour. There was a worry that the flooding earlier in the year might have caused damage, but Catharine and Arne sorted it out.

So, Autumn is almost here, the apples are ripening in the Orchard, there are blackberries on the brambles which we still have not managed to clear.

This is a short blog, and cannot do justice to twelve acres of ever-changing delight. Let us hope that others will add comments. Certainly there have been pleasing numbers of people enjoying the Garden, both as a break from their working day, and as visitors on Open Sundays. It is good that people can enjoy the Garden whilst contributing to charities such as that for motor neuron disease, the Red Cross or the National Garden Scheme’s yellow book.

Posted by Trudi Rehman

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