SEPTEMBER AT CLUNY
With autumn approaching many leaves and berries change colour throughout the month and the garden progresses into a very colourful period. This is the time of year to stop and look up to see the foliage, berries and cones. Look out anywhere for RED SQUIRRELS but especially around the feeders at No 5, the second Sequoiadendron and during September the large beech hedge above the old garden shed where they are feasting on the good crop of beech mast.
BULBS & TUBERS
As you begin your walk around the garden especially near the top you will see green 2 to 2.5m high stalks with fig-like seed heads. These are the unripe seed stalks of the Giant Himalayan Lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum which flowered in late June. They remain a structural feature in the garden throughout the year and the seed heads begin to open dispersing their seed in January. You should also see last year’s woody stalks with Venus fly-trap like seed heads at the top. As September progresses, around the garden and on the bank as you approach or leave you will see a variety of different colours of Colchicum (Autumn Crocus or 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 as long as voles and mice don’t find them!
TREES & SHRUBS
There is a fine example of the very beautiful Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ the Golden Acer at the gate as you enter the garden which is gradually changing into autumn colour as are a number of other Japanese maples particularly those close to the house and on the lawn. The beautiful red bark (with many different shades) of Prunus serrula tibetica Tibetan Cherry is unmistakable. Look out for the shaggy parent tree at No 10. The pale green leaves of the 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. Large clumps of Aralia can be seen around the edges of the lawn especially near the plant stall. Enkianthus and Euonymus are two groups of shrubs with striking orange or yellow leaves as autumn progresses. Particularly interesting are the different types of ‘lantern’ seed heads found on all the species of Euonymus. This is an excellent year for cones. Standing on the edge of the lawn you should be able to see on the far right to the back, and mid-way way between the 2 Sequoias examples of Abies procera, the Noble Fir from NW North America. The trees are heavy with cones and can be seen closer at the viewpoint near the top of the garden.
The magnificent scarlet creeper crawling over and up many trees and shrubs in the garden is Tropaeolum speciosum, the ‘Flame creeper’ from Chile. During September it has both the red flowers and the blue berries on the same plant. The plant grows from tubers and is herbaceous, dying back in the winter, growing from May onwards. Several Clematis flower profusely at this time of year including an unnamed Chinese species crawling over a Japanese maple at the far end of the lawn. It is loved by bees and other insects. A climbing Aconitum A. Hemsleyanium, climbs up a couple of tall sticks as you go down through the middle of the garden.
HIPS & BERRIES
The white berries of the various species of the herbaceous Actaea or Baneberry will remain on some plants until late September. Actaea alba has white berries with black ends supported on red stalks and is commonly called “Doll’s Eyes”. For the birds, it is another extremely good year for Sorbus, Cotoneaster, Hips, & Berberis berries. Look out for the miniature Sorbus reducta with pink berries on the lawn edge just after No 1 and also to the right of the stone steps near the bottom of the garden. The small tree Sorbus forrestii , with white berries is growing just after number 2. There are variously shaped and coloured rose hips throughout; some will be eaten by the squirrels!
Many insects love the tall, invasive late-flowering perennial Senecio tanguticus (Chinese Groundsel) with panicles of yellow flowers. There is a large clump close to the Sequoiadendron. The white Anemone japonica is established in various areas and there is a particularly large clump at the very bottom of the garden. This plant enjoys full sun and flowers well into October. Another late flowering plant established throughout the garden is the elegant Japanese Kirengeshoma Palmata or Yellow Waxbells with its tubular pale yellow flowers. A large clump can be seen between numbers 19 & 20. During early September, the European Willow Gentian Gentiana asclepiadea, a clump-forming perennial with blue (also white) flowers is found throughout. In a number of areas of the garden is an unnamed yellow annual ‘Busy Lizzie’ with amazing popping seed heads. The late-flowering very attractive clump-forming plant growing to 60cm in various spots is Chelone obliqua with pink flowers shaped like a tortoise head and loved by bees!
Please be patient and quiet when looking for the Red Squirrels. They do feed regularly on the feeders around number 5 especially in the morning but they are present throughout the garden and are often heard scrambling around the trees or chattering aggressively. The garden is full of birds particularly Blackbirds, Robins, Greenfinches, various Tits, Treecreepers and Siskins. Jays, jackdaws, buzzards and Great spotted woodpeckers are also present every day. A good number of fungi (an important natural food source for squirrels) are beginning to appear and there have already been plenty of Stinkhorns and Amanita species. We have plagues of voles and mice this year and it is a race to see who gets much of our valuable seed first, them or us! There is at least one hare in the garden and it occasionally appears at the bird feeders to feed on fallen bird seed!
Weeding and mulching with our own leaf mould continues as ever. There is seed to collect, dry and clean. Early spring flowering plants are being lifted and split to be planted elsewhere or potted for sale for next year. In fact there is never a dull moment!