WHATS HAPPENING IN THE GARDEN THIS AUTUMN – by Phil Cormie – our Senior Gardener
It's that time of year again when the nights are getting noticeably darker and the mornings are getting cooler. Autumn has arrived and the summer has come to an end however, there are still many plants that give colour and interest at this time of year.
The sculptures really come to the forefront at this time of year and sit well within the rich tapestry of autumnal colour developing throughout the garden; autumn truly is a wonderful time of year to visit us here at the gardens!
The naturalistic-style borders around Sunrise Lake look particularly wonderful going into October with drifts of grasses looking superb in the low autumnal light. The grasses are interplanted with blocks of Persicaria, Anemone and Hylotelephium ( formerly known as the larger border Sedum). A favourite in the border at this time of year is the Aster x frikartii 'Monch'. This aster is probably the best Michaelmas daisy as it flowers from August until October without ever looking untidy. This mound forming aster, with warm lavender flowers and yellow centres, contrasts well with the more open and airy habit of the Miscanthus sinensis and their feathery plumes of seeds.
One of our favourite plants in October is the autumn flowering gentian; planted in groups around the garden to give a zing of colour on border edges. Gentiana sino-ornata is one of the best; the species name sino-ornata roughly translates to 'showy chinese' which is an understatement . The trailing stems of this gentian throw up incredible rich blue, funnel-shaped flowers with a contrasting white stripe within the throat of each trumpet. This plant is an autumn classic and a star performer at this time of year.
Around the garden, the banks of azaleas are beginning to shine with their spectacular autumn colour especially in Leopard Valley. The colours are breathtaking with leaves turning from golden yellow through to fiery reds. The same autumn spectacle can be witnessed with many of our newly planted trees through the woodland walk especially with our large collection of Acer palmatum. One of the most beautiful trees at this time of year is the Cercidiphyllum japonicim located at the top of Hutts Valley. Autumn brings turns the leaves of the Katsura tree from green to yellows, oranges and reds. An interesting characteristic of this tree is the accompanying smell of caramel or candyfloss which drifts gently on the breeze as the leaves turn colour.