AUGUST AT CLUNY
Although it has been very dry, August is generally a very lush month and the transition from summer to autumn is becoming apparent with leaves and berries gradually turning colour. Seed heads and berries of many plants are left to self-seed within the garden and to provide interest as well as food for wildlife. We also collect seed for sale later in the year – essential income over the winter. Please do not pick anything, thank you. Many plants are highly poisonous especially if they have red berries! Others can cause allergic reactions.
LILIUMS, COLCHICUMS & CYCLAMEN
In one or two areas of the garden you will see some of last year’s very tall dried out stalks from the Giant Himalayan Lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum with Venus fly-trap like seed heads at the top. Now you will also see this year’s green 2 to 3m high stalks with their fig-like seed heads. These remain a structural feature in the garden throughout the year and the seed heads begin to open only when the seed is ripe from January. Lilium davidii an orange spotted lily remains in flower into early August in the lawn beds followed later in the month by the similar Lilium lancifolium (syn tigrinum) or Tiger Lily. The 2 to 3m high orange lily flowering in the bed above No 21 is the American Turkscap, Lilium superbum. The first autumn colchicums (naked ladies or autumn crocus) appear in late August particularly around the fence just before the car park near the closed gate. Tiny pink or white flowers of Cyclamen can also be spotted often hidden under trees.
In early August, Ligularia with their tall yellow or orange daisy-like flowers and large rounded leaves can be seen in various spots in the garden. Also showy and important for insects are Verbascum nigrum and V. n. album which are growing in the gravel and we are trying to establish them elsewhere in the garden. The very tall (3m) Verbascum thapsus (Great Mullien), a biennial, is just going over in early August but still very spectacular around No 2. In many places different species of flowering Hypericum are much loved by bees as is the tall, invasive late-flowering perennial Senecio tangutica (Chinese Groundsel) with panicles of yellow flowers. There is a large clump next to the Sequoiadendron at No 5. At the bottom of the garden in particular, there is an ever increasing drift of white Anemone japonica. This plant enjoys full sun and flowers well into October. Another autumn plant is the elegant Japanese Kirengeshoma palmata with its tubular pale yellow flowers sometimes called Yellow Waxbells. Large clumps can be seen behind number 3, between 6 & 7 and between 19 & 20. Appearing towards the end of the month is the European Willow Gentian Gentiana asclepiadea, a clump-forming perennial with blue (also white) flowers. It is found throughout the garden but there are some large clumps at the very bottom. An annual seen throughout the first half of the garden in the sunnier spots is a yellow ‘Busy-Lizzie’ with seed heads which spring open even if only lightly touched when they are ripe.
TROPAEOLUM SPECIOSUM (Red creeper)
The magnificent Tropaeolum speciosum or Chilean Flame Flower grows in many different places in the garden crawling through and over shrubs and trees. It has long spurred scarlet flowers and towards the end of the month, its purple-blue berries will begin appearing. It grows from long white underground tubers and is related to nasturtium. It prefers acidic soil and like Clematis grows from the shade into the sun. It dies back over winter, completely if there are hard frosts but reappears again in May. Some may not like its rampant behaviour!
TREES & SHRUBS
There is a fine example of the very beautiful Acer shirasawanum’ Aureum, the Golden Leaf Full Moon Japanese Maple at the gate as you enter the garden. It and other Japanese maples are already showing autumnal tints. The beautiful varied red bark of the many examples of Prunus serrula var. Tibetica, the Tibetan Cherry is unmistakable. At present they are hanging with cherries (inedible) which are turning red, and a favourite food of blackbirds and wood pigeons. (PLEASE do not pull off any of the bark). Look out for the parent tree at No 10. A huge example at the back of the house of the Chinese Hydrangea sargentiana flowers vigorously during August attracting many insects particularly bumble bees. Younger plants can be seen between numbers 5 & 6 and 18 & 19. Large specimens of the vigorous Hydrangea paniculata, mainly found at the very bottom of the garden, are also in full flower.
HIPS & BERRIES
The most obvious of colourful hips in early August are the orange and red hips of Rosa omeiensis which are also eaten by the squirrels. Good examples are on the lawn at No 2 and in the gravel opposite. Of the Actaeas or Baneberry, the prolific numbers of A. rubra berries are now being devoured by bullfinches, song thrushes and blackbirds while the white berries of A. alba (Doll’s Eyes) may stay on the stems for weeks without being eaten. Some of the more spectacular seed heads are those of the Arisaemas (Cobra Lilies) which have spikes of red or orange berries After a spectacular spring for blossom it is now a great year for berries on shrubs and trees. Different species of Berberis hold tiny orange or red berries like little jewels on their fine branches. Look up at conifers (especially from the lawn) for the many different types of cones.
Please keep a look out for the Red Squirrels. They feed regularly, sometimes two at a time, on the bird feeders near the first Sequoiadendron giganteum at No 5 and on feeders close to the car-park. The squirrels are quite tame so as long as you are quiet and patient it should be possible to get a photograph particularly at No 5. The garden is full of birds but most have gone quiet while they are in moult. Bullfinches, Treecreepers, Jays and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are regulars along with many other common species. There are plenty toads and frogs, one reason for the near perfect hosta leaves! You may also see a hare or even a hedgehog. If you are able to identify any fungi or see any butterflies, please leave a note of what you see as there is a garden list.
Constant cutting back of a number of shrubs and trees is always necessary. Weeding and mulching continues as ever. There is seed to collect and dry. Early spring flowering plants are being lifted and split to be planted in other parts of the garden or potted for sale for next year. If you see one of us working in the garden and you have any questions, we would be delighted to answer them, if we can.