The wonderful summer is now a distant memory as a changeable September took its place

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The major event of the month for us was that Moira at last, after a 2 year wait,  had her knee replacement operation on 19th. It was possible for a partial knee replacement to be performed which usually is less painful and quicker to recover from. She is making excellent progress and has had very good feedback from her physiotherapist, who complimented her on how much mobilty she has, testament to all the recommended exercises she has done at home.  From the early days she was comfortable walking with 2 sticks and is already relying on them far less than she was. No garden chores for her for some time! but she takes a delight in walking round the garden which continues to look very good in spite of some very changeable and challenging weather.




Torrential rain and strong winds took some getting used to after such a benign summer. The small river (the Ydw) at the bottom of the garden overtopped its banks for the first time in a few years, and several local roads were flooded for a short time.

8 sunny days, Max 22C on 3 occasions early in  the  month

7 rain days with a total of 5" rain

Changeable most of the rest of the month

As the month progressed it got noticeably colder day and night,  with 10 nights of 5C and below:- 3 times it got to 1C, just too close for comfort for all the many tender plants still in active growth. It also meant late nights for me, covering the most tender with horti fleece, All survived which makes it worth while. In our frost pocket if we get a forecast at or near zero C you can be sure that there is a good chance we may get a proper frost.




The winds flattened some large leaved plants like gunnera and the later courgettes that were cropping so well.


Even short growing plants like this colchicum " The Giant"  (at 4" not that big) like many others in the garden were  falttened.


One good side was that they brought down many of the inacessible apples on our tall Bramley trees, many of which fell onto the lawn which broke the fall and gave us plenty of useable windfalls that should keep for a good few weeks. Many of these found their way to grateful friends and neighbours. There were a few pleasant September like "golden days" with some warmth and lovely sunsets.




Towards the month end the nights got colder and on two occasions we got perilously close to an air frost, but we just avoided some serious plant damage which is always a problem when so many plants are still in active growth, which often signals the coming to an end of the full gardening year. With our respective health conditions, the successfull flowering year has given us much pleasure and sustenance.



 To get the pics of a frosty morning just for you, I got up at 6.00a.m to capture the first hoar frost, and the soft pink sunrise. Not a scene I am the familiar with!!


 And at the other end of the day images of the Harvest  Moon


And the waxing moon with that lovely creamy colour.



Garden update

 Fabulous autumn tree and shrub colour from cotinus "Grace", euonymus alatus and  liquidamber, badly disfigured almost a year ago by a searing gale


One of the best colouring and earliest is sorbus "Olympic Flame" almost as good as any acer, and like most in the genus good value from spring to autumn


Because we have always tried to keep the gardening year going as long as possible, we have planted many late season flowering plants, which with those plants that have the capacity to keep on flowering until the worst of the weather arrives,  greatly extends the flowering period. We used to open the garden for the NGS until the end of September, and many visitors were fascinated to see just how many plants you can have in flower throughout the month or making a contribution in some other way, in all but the least favourable weather. Some choices of the best plants to achieve this can be found under this heading and the next one.

The lawns here always set off the garden in a good light so we continue our 2 - 4 times a week mowing regime, and keeping the edges tightly trimmed. As does keeping the hedges cut and the shape of the large yew tree at the entrance to the Paddock garden trimmed. Nothing like the topiary as seen in many larger gardens, but a crisp outline is always pleasing to the eye across the wider garden.




We had quite a challenge at the beginning of the month when parts of the lawns started to show signs of damage caused by birds pecking the turf to find the juicy morsels (cockchaffer  grubs) underneath. How do they know they are there? In some years I have been known to peel back the worst affected areas of grass, leaving them open so the birds can attack the grubs  and then re- sow grass seed which just has enough time to become eatblished before the arrival of early winter. This year however for the first time I used  "Nemasys" nematodes treatment which is readily available on line and easy to apply with a watering can. It is much less work than removing the turf and apears to have been very effective. I will still need to surface sow grass seed and top dress with sharp sand or top soil. Feeding the lawns with a speciality winter feed once or at most twice during the winter is always a good policy to keep the lawns looking surprisingly green.

Vegetables have continued to crop well with courgettes to the fore and runner beans at last cropping well, but rather small. Repeat sowing of these and late salad leaves  ensures continuity of supply for another month or so.

Mixed seeds of coloured carrots have produced the best and tastiest of all the 4 varieties we have grown this year, each of the 4 varieties orange, black purple, red and creamy yellow a different flavour. Quite a sight on the dinner plate.


This is the time of year when root crops start to come into their own as their flavour matures, with some good parsnips, carrots, beetroots  and celeriac, providing a different taste at the meal table.

A huge parsnip, celeriac and a caterpillar damaged cabbage which not surprisingly was not very good.


 Sadly all our sweetcorn came to a premature end before the month began, but I found a picture I hoped to publish in last month's News, of what I think is an unusual take on a ripe cob of the tasty vegetable. Quite artistic if I can be so bold to suggest!!


Help is always useful in the garden and Kit Kat takes an interest  in what I am doing. He got the wrong idea when the basket came out to gather the apple crop. He took a different view and wasn't slow to let me know!!



With the cabbage tribe still troubled with caterpillars we are short of them but recently I did manage to purchase  from a local garden centre, some nice plants of an early season cabbage, Hispi, which, being quick to produce an early crop, should with luck.produce some fresh tasting spring cabbage in 4 - 6 weeks.


A scary picture, caterpillars on a kale plant looking like the head of Medusa! None of the true leaves were left.


The star prize for the best croppers in the garden goes to the 2 Bramley apple trees. which in the 42 years  we have been here haven't cost us a penny! We just let them get on with things. They don't always crop well but this year they have gone absolutely bonkers. They are not easy to pick as this variety is a tip bearer which on such large trees, makes it difficult to to harvest the fruit.








On top of all this I managed to find time to clear the Paddock Pond for one last time before winter sets in. At last I found the reason for the blockage of the inlet from the stream which keeps it topped up:- it was an almost round pebble at 4" exactly the same size as the inlet pipe! Somehow with vigorous rodding I removed it.


On the ornamental plant front, many are still making a contribution to the borders.

 In the Paddock Garden shade border in perfect harmony remaining flower heads on hydrangea aspera ssp. sargentiana, in the foreground rudbeckia sullivantii "Goldsturm" still going strong and at the back Kirengeshoma palmata, a tall herbaceous member of the hydrangea family up to 5-6 feet tall



Pink flowers are everywhere at this time of year on a wide variety of plants, this pic highlighting chelone obliqua a border stalwart for at least a couple of months to the end of October, together with asters (symphyotrichum) and a late flush of astrantia



Burning red colour from sorbus and massed berries on a native hawthorn- a marvellous year for berries of all sorts


Miscanthus add real substance and movement  to this border complemented by fading hydrangeas


In terms of garden design, in a busy colourful garden, it is often recommended that open green spaces are left to provide contrast to the activity going on all around. I can't say that this was my main purpose in creating the space in the Paddock Garden where a former Veg bed was once sited. I do think though it has made a terrfic impact! He said modestly!!




 The beech hedge walk where all the winter and spring activity takes place particularly our hellebore collection which was looking very sorry for itself in high summer but there is still interest with a wide planting of cyclamen hederifolium which this year was month later than usual, but when the rains came they simply took off!


It took me quite a while to get used to orange in a border now  we have several borders which feature them



Most pleasingly roses, after a disappointing spring / early summer flush. Having been repeatedly dead headed by Moira and fed with rose food at the end of june  what a difference it has made..



Rosa " Munstead Wood" one of my all time favourites, not only because of its connection with Gertrude Jekyl, but also because we are friends of the current owner of the property which has been a special privilege for us.

This one is for you Marjorie!


Many other fine plants deserving pride of place are highlighted below under the next heading. 

Hardy begonias are becoming increasingly popular particularly B. grandisna evansiana of which there is a wide range of cultivars and sports. Alongside is that wonderful Japanese woodland grass hakonechloa macra in part shade.


What's  looking good?

Aster divaricatus a long flowering shade lover.



Pink aster (symphiotrichum) "Anita Webb" with astrantia "Ruby Star"



Hydrangea "Preziosa" should have a common name of the "chameleon plant" because of the number of colour changes the flowers go through which extends also to the leaves in autumn.



Colchicum "Waterlily"


Liriope muscari "Royal Purple" which like most of the genus grows happily in part shade in slightly moist conditions and flowers into late autumn, sometimes producing late black berries


Like many " Hardy Planters" I have always been keen on hardy geraniums but you can't collect all of them in a  huge genus, and earlier this year Margaret, a gardening friend of ours recommended g. himalayense "Derrick Cook" for it's large flowers and pale blue flowers with a darker blue veining" and it is indeed a fine plant which spreads controlably. such a "good doer"


 In the foreground of this pic at a friend's wholesale nursery is a fine stand of geranium "Rozanne" Probably one of the most admired in the genus


 Selinum walichianum an excellent later flowering umbelifer  to 5 feet for moist but not wet soil in part shade or sun. Look at those lovely purple stems.


 Blue spires of aconitum carmichaelii and in the background  helianthus "Lemon Queen"


Clematis rehderiana, slightly scented hence its other name of the cowslip clematis.



 Berries on viburnum opulus and if you can see them on this rainy day, a few blue flowers of Clematis alpina, normally a spring flowering clamatis which sometimes has later flush


 Everywhere you look in the garden there are plants looking like they are on fire. Here sorbus "Olympic Flame" set aside a self seeded native hawthorn covered in berries.



One of the few plants that seem later than usual is the hardy fuchsia, but it was good to see one of my favourites "Lady Bacon" coming into bloom in mid month.


A relatively hardy bromeliad  Fascicularia bicolour which looks like it is on fire, cooled by those waxy blue flowers


 When we went to Kilver Court in Somerset last month the garden shop had a number of streptocarpus in a sale. None of them had labels, but a sucker for a streptocarpus and a bargain, it didn't concern me there were no plant labels and I am now glad that I made the purchase. Two unusual forms below yet to be tracked down, but possibly Dutch or Belgium in origin.





 Astilbe "Beauty of Ernst" joining in the fire fest.


Salvia "Amistad" in a lovely shade of deepest blue, one of several in the gardens  reflecting our love of this form. 


 Salvia confertiflora in the Red Border making an impact at nearly 5 feet tall




Salvia "Waterperry" 


Miscanthus gracillimus on left and "Adagio" on the right, the two contrasting well with each other



Dahlia honka yellow. Good open flowers like this are always attractive to bees


This shiny clean rose is of Fench origin from Delbard roses The variety is "La Rose de Molinard". There are a few roses in this group and in my experience they rarely have fungal and viral diseases unlike many other roses we have in our 100 or so in the garden from other rose nurseries.


 Ageratum petiolatum, a rare and unusual form as it is perennial and possibly hardy. I have not tried that out yet. 


 Sorbus rosea a good all round tree for a smaller garden with flowers, berries and great autumn colour in many varieties.


Sorbus have done well in the garden here over the years, the climate and soil conditions suit them well. Although there are only 7 of them they make an excellent impact. All of them came from, Hergest Croft, a favourite garden of ours in Herefordshire, with a National Plant collection.

An autumn bouquet with a difference for you dear reader!





Rocoea "Cinnamon Stick" A genus wth a growing following and a wider range of forms.


Wildlife and countryside

Swallows were very slow to arrive here in the Spring and once they did they were not in the numbers you would normally expect to see. With such fine weather and masses of flying insects to feed on that seemed rather strange. Perhaps events overseas in countries where they overwintered  had an influence. Whatever it was the swallows that were here didn't seem that keen to stay for long! So it was that almost as soon as September arrived they began to form flocks on the wing, and with none of the massing on telephone wires that is normaly a prelude to their departure. Within a couple of days they had all gone  and the only ones we continued to see afterwards were those travelling south from more northerly locations. No picture opportunities therefore of one of the wildlife events of early autumn.

We have however recently seen more butterflies than we have all summer, with lots of perfect butterfly plants to feed on, particularly sedums, asters and single dahlias, but nothing rare or unusual.




Events of a more usual autumn kind are in evidence in the surrounding fields as breeding ewes are moved to their winter quarters,  and await the introduction of the rams - the continuous farming cycle in this part of the world repeating itself.

Neighbouring farmers are uncommonly active in getting in a late harvest that the unprdictable weather over the last few months  put on hold. Some farmers are short of silage and hay to get them through the winter, quite a concern with some long term forecasts suggesing  a cold and frosty winter.

An ash tree that last year I woried for because it had clear signs of ash dieback  disease but this year it has grown strongly and is now dripping with ash keys. Only time will tell if it will survive another year. I have a close affection for it as I planted it as a sapling dug up from the forest drive which was due to be levelled in anticipation of a programme of re- aforestation. 


Naturalised non-native plants like Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed are in their prime at this time of year in the moist and shady conditions that suit them best all across this part of the world. Whilst acknowledging the problems they can cause to indiginous plants and local environments, the plantsman that introduced them many years ago certainly had a good eye for a plant as, at their mature best, the certainly can put on a spectacular show in a big landscape.




Just a week ago we had a very early visit from our first otter(s) of the season to the Paddock Pond, the game being given away by upturned waterlilies, pond weed and fish scales on the bank. They normally come in later autumn with young otters looking to establish territories of their own. It will be time soon to get the electric fence in place to humanely deter them, but a short zap on a wet nose certainly deters them for most of the winter.

Two days after the attack there were fish showing on a sunny day and large shoals of fry from this years spawning of rudd.




Just one garden visit to report on, to friends Matthew and Tim of Nantyietau , St Clears , Carmarthenshire SA33 4HF, who for the first time opened their garden for the NGS this summer and hope to do so again in 2019. I have commented upon this fascinating garden in the  25/7/18 News edition entitled "June was busting out all over"  but unfortunately as has been the case recently on the website, I was not able to publish pictures. This time I hope I will be more successful because words cannot fully describe what an amazing plantsman and wildlife lovers garden it is. Keep your eyes open in February  for for the publication of the 2019 National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book and  Western Counties Booklet, featuring amongst other counties, Carmarthenshire. Make the most of the opportunity to visit a fine new addition to some of the many fine gardens in what is becoming, along with Pembrokeshire, a gardens hotspot. 

There are several outbuildings which have been cleverly adapted to accommodate a wide range of tender and tropical plants, many of them unusual or rare. There are also other buildings for tropical butterflies and moths, Huge Koi carp, and other intruders like quail and other native birds. And outside,  poultry and a collection of peacocks. Totally fascinating!

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 I felt sure I have come across this salvia before in a delightful shade of blue but have not yet been able to identify it, there are plants like this all over the garden



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And an another outbuilding, an unexpected encounter with an American snapping turtle, as viscous as it sounds and another from china.

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And finally a visit of a different nature came at the beginning of the month. The Tour of Britain Cycle Race passed within 1 mile of Cilgwyn Lodge. What a treat to have a national sporting event come so close and along with almost all the residents on our lane,it provided a good opportunity to meet up and share the event and the camaraderie that exists between some of the best neighbours you could wish for.








 Thanks for staying with this exceptionally long News Letter. There was plenty to report on and I feel that I got rather  carried away with the fact that I was at last able to download all the pictures that I wanted to share with you. Enjoy the rest of what has been an exceptional gardening year.

Keith and Moira X