Gold and red and orange and green


It’s happened, at last – autumn colour has hit my garden. Maybe that should be in the past tense, because I looked out of the window this morning and realised that the sudden drop in temperature had led to an inevitable conclusion: the ground was covered with leaves. Oh well, It was good while it lasted. That was for about five minutes.


See this rather lovely Acer, protected from the worst of the wind by my giant hedge? Looked luminous for maybe a week. Now it looks like this:

acer and marigolds

(But I still think the colours are fab – just not quite the same.) Incidentally, I have been immensely pleased with the two boxes of French Marigolds I bought at Wilkinsons way back in the spring. They have flowered consistently and abundantly, and have looked wonderful – I’ve been quite careful about dead-heading, but that’s not been a hassle – and I am going to plant a whole load more next year. They will look great under the acer, and the couple that are there already have certainly not shown any difference in vigour from the ones in more open conditions. Next year – a river of them. If I remember…

One of the new things we have done this year has made a profound change to the middle garden. We dug up a great chunk of lawn to make a new bed – or, rather, to increase the size of the existing bed around the sundial so it no longer looks like a ‘tom tit on a round of beef’ in the middle of the lawn. It’s not planted up yet, except for a Gillenia trifoliata and three really blue Festuca glaucas. The big ash in that garden dropped all its leaves at once, and I must admit I quite like the effect in the grasses.

festuca glauca and ash

(Raking the lawns and the grasses is one of this morning’s jobs. Honest. No, really – I try to leave Monday mornings free for gardening, if I can. Gardening and sheltering from the weather.)

We have a very strange kind of autumn here generally, without a lot of the stunning colour you get elsewhere. Yes, the woods do colour up, eventually, but they’re never quite as spectacular as you’d expect; nor does it last very long. Climate, I think, has been the consensus of opinion. Too mild, perhaps, though not this morning. It’s hailing right now.

One thing which is always reliable in my garden is the blueberry, which is why I keep it. I’ve given up netting it to keep the birds off the berries – sooo ugly, plus they get in anyway and  have to be released with lots of flapping and feline interest – so I just enjoy the stunning autumn colour.


I particularly like the way stray leaves find their way all over the garden – you can be in a completely different area and suddenly encounter the bright surprise of a scarlet leaf. I’m not sure that scarlet is the right term, though – they’re more of a bright cherry red, if that makes a sense. I always think of scarlet as a sharper colour, perhaps with more yellow. (For one friend, scarlet is Thursday. And seven. Truly a strange world, synaesthesia, to those of us without it.)

Another crop I’ve become increasingly lazy about is the crab apple harvest.

crab apples

I used to be very good. They got used, and the ones I couldn’t cope with got shared around. Picking was a two-person job, involving balancing on the wall around the old pigsty or on a very precarious stepladder over rough ground and filling carrier bags, but – quite frankly – the amount of crab apple jelly I get through is minimal, and friends and neighbours started making excuses. So I’ve settled for perhaps taking a few and putting them with blackberries or other foraged fruits in a sweeter jelly and leaving the rest to light up that end of the garden like little lanterns in the branches.

And then you have a hailstorm and they all fall off. Grrr.

Also busy falling off are all the leaves from the Rosa rugosa hedges. It’s always quite a shock when they fall – they really do give me a lot of privacy and I suddenly feel very exposed. But the colours are fab,

rose leaf

and they certainly brighten the place up.

Every autumn is different, and one of my most reliable providers of colour hasn’t really got going this year at all: the ginkgo is still quite green, but the leaves are coming off. Normally they turn a clear yellow first, and the same applies to the birches. I’m putting this down entirely to the weirdly warm weather we’ve had until now. That is also, I guess, responsible for this:

agh weeds

Weeds germinating. Everywhere. Presumably some of them aren’t weeds – some are quite clearly cerinthes, for instance, last deliberately planted a couple of years ago – but it looks like April in some areas. Ridiculous.

More hail! More hail!



13 Comments Add yours

  1. lifeofjanine says:

    I can see your garden! I, too, love flashes of fall colours – especially that red that is almost neon.

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it fab? Maybe one of the reasons is that it is so fleeting – my garden is now in shades of brown. Oh well…

  2. It’s beIen a weird autumn everywhere I think, the wind of good old Gonzalo saw off lots up here.
    I like the colouring on the blueberry and can completely agree how netting just isn’t a good look. The birds I’m sure are appreciative of your leaving it off.

    1. kate says:

      Hasn’t it, though? And it continues – first snow on the mountains today, but comparatively mild here, 100m above sea level.
      I did manage to race the blackbirds to about three blueberries so it wasn’t a total loss (though it was for one of the blackbirds, because Mr Fluffy Bum Big Cat from next door was lying in wait; he could at least hunt in his own garden)…

  3. hoehoegrow says:

    Weird and wonderful weather has totally confused our poor plants ! The temperature is dropping like a stone here as ‘real’ autumn begins, I think !
    I’m with you about picking stuff – sometimes it’s better just to leave stuff for the birds – there’s only so much jam a body can eat!!

    1. kate says:

      Sure you’re right; I too think we are at last in autumn now – certainly felt like it this am. Chilly, snow on the mountains, mist hanging about lower down. We moved a shedload of plants yesterday, in and out of the rain storms, but they all seem to have survived. So far…

      Hah! on jam – quite right too!

  4. It was noticeable how much more visible autumn was as we drove off the Island last week and headed across to Leeds. Though I can’t really complain, as my Acer was magnificent again (now just pretty confetti) and the nandina is almost shocking the colour is so vivid. More hail? You’re asking for more hail?! Your new bed sounds rather exciting, look forward to seeing the plans made manifest in the form of plants. Fron Goch anybody?! Though I suspect you are more likely to buy lights than plants at the moment 😉

    1. kate says:

      My Acer went ‘woooossssshhhh’ and dropped every single remaining leaf yesterday. I know how it felt – for the first time I was in proper boots, fleece, scarf and – ssssshhhhh – hat. Not a good look, and I did gradually shed items, but it’s the start of something.

      We moved some agapanthus into the new bed – they were completely wrong in their old location. I also spent ages trying to make the Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ work there, but it just would not. I clearly need more plants, clearly!

  5. Cathy says:

    You don’t need excuses for buying more plants, Kate, I am sure! Thanks for sharing your fallen leaves with us us – they are so pretty when they first fall and it’s just when they turn into a soggy mush that they become less likeable. Hail? Brrrr! Chilly last night here (2 degrees C) but no frozen precipitation…

    1. kate says:

      I’m beginning to run out of space, but I say ‘hah!’ to that one – an excuse made by uncommitted gardeners, IMO. True gardeners never run out of space; they dig up lawns (tick), give plants away (tick), cram just too many things in (tick), decide they need to redesign a huge section because exit’s not quite right, and then have to do all of the first three (tick, tick, tick…). You’re absolutely right, who needs excuses?

      Chilly chilly chilly. Local farmers forecasting extreme cold coming, too. One asked me – without trying to sell me any – if I’d got plenty of logs in…

      1. Cathy says:

        Lots of ticks for me too Kate!!

  6. wellywoman says:

    I think blueberries are so underrated in terms of autumn colour – they’re fabulous. I press them for crafting projects. It has been an odd autumn, not as spectacular as previous years but it’s been nice to have that extended good weather. Chilly here now but still no frost – too much rain instead. What would we talk about if we didn’t have the weather? 😉

    1. kate says:

      Pressing them is a fabulous idea – the colour is stunning. I opened a little notebook the other day and several pressed leaves fell out, still in their autumn splendour. Amazing, because I know where and when I picked them up: at Wisley, the last autumn before I left London. 2001.

      We live in Britain, it’s got to be the weather. Imagine how boring it would be if we just had a year-round certainty, as in some places. One friend spent a ‘stage’ in California and came back bored with the lack of variation!

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