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 at the second Sequoiadendron. 

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. Due to the lack of rain this spring many of the stalks have not reached their normal height. 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 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 first!

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 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. 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 (Spindle). As they ripen, they open to reveal colourful seeds surprisingly much loved food for Robins. You may well smell a lovely sweet aroma around number 11 where to the left is a very large Cercidiphyllum japonicum the Katsura Tree (from China & Japan). Its ovate to rounded leaves turn orange and yellow in autumn. In Germany this tree is aptly named THE PUDDING TREE due to the fallen leaves smelling of burnt sugar or even popcorn! 

CREEPERS

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. A climbing Aconitum A. Hemsleyanium, climbs up a couple of tall sticks at No 12 as well as on the magnolia at the entrance gate and flowers in early September.

HIPS & BERRIES

The red or 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! Early in the month, the impressive stems of very bright orange or red berries coming straight out of the ground belong to various species of Arisaemas or “Cobra Lilies”.

HERBACEOUS PLANTS

Many insects love the tall, invasive late-flowering perennial Senecio tanguticus (Chinese Groundsel) with panicles of yellow flowers. There is a clump close to the Sequoiadendron at No 5 seen behind the sign. 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. A late-flowering very attractive clump-forming plant growing to 60cm is Chelone obliqua with pink flowers shaped like a tortoise head and loved by bees!

WILDLIFE

Please be patient and quiet when looking for the Red Squirrels. They can be seen on the feeders around number 5 especially in the morning but they are present throughout and are often heard scrambling around the trees or chattering aggressively. The garden is full of birds particularly Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins, Greenfinches, Tits, Treecreepers and Siskins.  Buzzards, Jays and Great Spotted woodpeckers are regular visitors. By the end of the month the first Redwings and Fieldfares should arrive to feed during the autumn on all the berries particularly the rowans. This appears to be a very good year for fungi, an important natural food source for squirrels and SLUGS! Please let us know if you can name any of the fungi. Bumblebee and wasp species are still in abundance and Red Admirals and Comma butterflies have been seen recently. Watch out for our Brown hares and possibly a stoat normally seen in the top area of the garden.

SEPTEMBER JOBS

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!