Autumn is a wonderfully colourful time with loads of berries, hips, seed-heads, cones, and of course, a spectacular leaf change resulting in a myriad of hues and tints. Please take your time going round the garden making sure to follow the numbers 1 to 33. This is the time of year to LOOK UP and BEHIND you to see different views of colourful trees and shrubs! Remember to look out for the RED SQUIRRELS. They are always busy at this time of year!

On the lawn and in the gravel in front of the house there are a number of fine examples of Acers or Japanese maples. In early to mid October these small trees appear to be on fire with wonderful orange and red hues. There are a number of other very colourful Acers throughout the garden and in the car park area. The pale green leaves of Aralia chinensis or Devil’s Walking Stick are some of the first to change to bright yellow and orange and very strangely, once the leaves drop, the plant flowers at the top of the stick. There is a large clump of Aralia behind the plant stall as well as around the edges of the lawn. In the gravel are self-seeded “Himalayan Honeysuckles” with pendulous racemes of white flowers, red-purple bracts followed by deep purple berries. The berries are much loved by robins and bullfinches. Found throughout the garden, Enkianthus, Azaleas and Euonymus are 3 groups of large shrubs which have striking red, orange or yellow leaves as autumn progresses. Particularly interesting are the different types of ‘lantern’ seed heads found on all the species of Euonymus. As they ripen, they open to reveal colourful seeds again much loved food for robins. As the leaves fall, the colourful barks of different groups of trees such as the snake-bark maples, birches and cherries begin to stand out.

The magnificent scarlet creeper crawling over and up many trees and shrubs in the garden is Tropaeolum speciosum the ‘Flame Creeper’ from Chile. Although some flowers remain, during October it is covered in blue berries. The plant grows from tubers and is herbaceous, dying back in the winter, growing from May onwards. There are unnamed mostly cream (much loved by insects) Chinese Clematis growing over and through shrubs in the lawn area. Seed heads of the earlier flowered species such as C. macropetala & alpina are found in other parts of the garden.

Although the Giant Himalayan Lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum, flowered in July, its green fig-like seed heads and stalks up to 3m high remain a structural feature throughout the garden. Some of last year’s “dead heads” also remain and appear very like Venus Flytraps. In early October you will still see a variety of different colours of Colchicum (Autumn crocus, Naked Ladies). Look out for the double-flowered ‘Waterlily’ and the white Colchicum speciosum album. Delicate pink or white Cyclamen can be found ‘hidden’ under the trees in various spots.

HIPS & BERRIES & CONES                                                                                                                          This is another excellent year for different types of berries including Cotoneaster, Hips & Berberis berries. Look out for the miniature rowan Sorbus reducta with pink berries on the lawn not far past No 1, then at No 2 the white-berried bush rowan S forrestii. S. hupehensis, a tree with pink berries is found throughout the garden thanks to the birds! There are many other different species of rowan and also cotoneasters with different coloured berries including black, glossy red and orange. There is a wide range of cones within the garden and you may see a number lying on the ground as well as on the trees. Common species include Sitka Spruce, the shelter belt trees seen well beyond the end of the lawn, their crowns covered in cones. You will be surprised at the small size of the Sequoiadendron (the Redwood) cones found at Nos 5 & 9. Douglas Fir cones are frequently found lying on the upper steps between 28 & 29 occasionally with the larger cones of Norway Spruce. Sitka cones are much favoured by the squirrels!

The elegant Japanese Kirengeshoma palmata with its tubular pale yellow flowers remains in flower during early October. A late-flowering very attractive clump-forming plant growing to one metre is Chelone obliqua with pink flowers shaped like a tortoise head. There are clumps of a bright annual yellow “Busy Lizzie” particularly in the lawn area which will die right back with the first frosts but they have been flowering for many weeks. Also long flowered are the white Japanese anemones Anemone japonica . A large drift can be found at the bottom of the garden providing some food for the last of the summer’s hoverflies into early October.
If you are quiet, you should easily see the Red Squirrels. They regularly feed on the feeders but are also noticeable within the garden busy burying food or racing around the trees. This year there is a good crop of beech mast so the squirrels can also be found on the tall old beech hedge on the LHS between 14 & 16. The garden is full of birds especially around the feeders – various tits, chaffinch, greenfinch, blackbird, robin and dunnock.  Within the garden you could also see or hear bullfinch, treecreeper, wren, goldcrest, raucous jays and Great Spotted woodpecker. Redwings and fieldfares should begin arriving early in October resulting in no more rowan berries! Geese (pinkfeet early in the month, mainly greylag thereafter) are regular overhead as well as buzzards and ravens. We do have hares and usually they remain very quiet and still but you may be fortunate enough to surprise one. This year there are huge number of voles and various mice species and these can sometimes be seen if you sit quietly at the bird feeders. Look out for stoats which can appear anywhere especially where there are voles!
There is still seed to collect; some will not be ready for picking until November. It has to be dried and cleaned ready for sowing or selling through our 2014 seed-list in mid-winter. Please leave your name and address/email address in one of the boxes if you would like a copy. We leave seed heads on many plants to allow a more natural type of germination in the garden (and to feed mice –it would seem!) Weeding and mulching are still being done and we are preparing for the big winter jobs of leaf collection, tree extraction and path work.