AUGUST AT CLUNY

August is generally a very lush month with fewer flowers in the woodland. The transition from summer to autumn becomes 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. Please be very aware that many plants are highly poisonous especially if they have red berries! Others can cause allergic reactions.

LILIUMS, COLCHICUMS & CYCLAMEN

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. Now you will also see this year’s green 1 to 2m 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 November onwards. Unfortunately due to the dry weather many did not reach their ultimate height of 3m! Lilium lancifolium (syn tigrinum) or Tiger Lily a tall turkscap flowers in the lawn beds. Below No 23 with a background of Gunnera (Giant rhubarb) is pink Lilium wardii from China. The first autumn colchicums (naked ladies or autumn crocus) appear in late August and attract many insects especially hoverflies. From early August tiny pink or white flowers of Cyclamen can also be spotted often hidden under trees. There is a large clump at the bottom of the stone steps at No 22.

HERBACEOUS PLANTS

At No 1, don’t miss the striking scarlet herb Monarda didyma (Bergamot or Beebalm). 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 becoming established elsewhere in the garden. 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 clump growing amongst the pots behind the sign at the first Sequoiadendron.  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 close to No 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 bright 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 from now on, 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! However it does provide great colour.

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). A huge example at the back of the house of the Chinese Hydrangea sargentiana flowers vigorously during August attracting many insects particularly bumble bees. A younger plant can be seen between numbers 18 & 19. Huge specimens of the vigorous Hydrangea paniculata, are mainly found at the very bottom of the garden.

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. Different species of Berberis hold tiny orange or red berries like little jewels on their fine branches. This a good coning year so look up at conifers (especially from the lawn) for the many different types of cones. The TREE SHEET will help identify some of the larger conifers.

WILDLIFE

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, Jay, Song Thrushes 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 stoat. If you are able to identify any fungi or butterflies, we would really appreciate a little note of any sightings.

AUGUST JOBS

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. 

Acer
Acer
Hydrangea
Hydrangea
Colchicum
Colchicum