Category Archives: Autumn colour

Back to autumn at Cadnant

In the spirit of experimentation – and optimism, and hoping that time has worked its magic on WordPress – I’m having another go at posting about Plas Cadnant in autumn. (Er, incidentally, time had not. But it’s a Safari glitch, only affects inserting a space after a photo gallery – at which point it wipes the entire post, arrrrrrggghhhh – and everything seems to be working in Firefox. Fingers crossed. Oh, no it isn’t. It’s something to do with image galleries, but I know no fear and at least in Firefox it only wipes out the gallery.)

Right, plants. Gardens. Sunshine.

Cadnant

I had planned a second visit, just to catch the last of the garden before it shut its doors for the winter – tomorrow is the last day of opening – but work got in the way. Boo and also hiss. I’ll have to want until the snowdrops, and hope that this winter’s inevitable storms don’t undo all the fantastic repair work which has been happening at Cadnant since the devastation of last December. Personally, I think it’s going to be better than ever, and is almost there.

It was a beautiful autumn day when we visited, just perfect. A little chill in the air, but not enough to stop us having lunch outside in the sun. And some of the plants seemed to be basking too, taking in the last certain warmth.

img_5929

Of course the stone walls – the top part of the garden is surrounded by high walls as well as being broken up by lower ones – do help to retain the heat, and they also give the plants a beautiful backdrop.

I’m not really an aster fan, but I think I may be changing.

For me, asters – or to be precise, Michaelmas Daisies – are inevitably associated with the return to school and an extremely boring harvest festival to which I went under protest, and clutching a giant bunch of stinky, shedding, purple, you-guessed-its. Ergh. BUt I can see their appeal – just not the purple ones. Well, not the paler purple ones.

Another thing I have a problem with is the hydrangea. Or rather the hydrangea I had in my garden until I emitted a great shriek and finally gave in to P’s desire to mattock it out (the root was about as big as the house and the resulting new bed is metres and metres wide and deep). It did not pay its way. The ones at Cadnant, however, do. Even the paler ones like mine:

img_5943

Oh, sigh.

The woodland at Cadnant is what I really, really love, though. It’s like a tropical forest down there… no, maybe it’s more like… oh, I don’t know. But there are enormous and beautiful tree ferns and gunners, and water and huge trees and mosses and lichens and odd fungi at this time of year and remarkably few visitors (but then it was a Wednesday).

I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to attempt to add another gallery of photographs, so I’ll just leave with another few shots at full size, which neither browser seems to find objectionable. Cadnant is so worth visiting, and by the time we came out the car park – ok, field – was chocka. Somehow the garden just seems to absorb people; until emerging we had no idea it was so busy.

geranium on tree

Yes, it’s a hardy geranium growing on a tree. There were many.

Cadnant

Stunning colour combinations with the bright red and the almost acid green behind, and a farewell from Plas Cadnant (and a bit of log store envy).

Cadnant walls

Incidentally, their containers are always good – casual and relaxed, but lovely. I’ve got container envy too.

Oh, what a garden – Plas Cadnant

I know, I should be tree following, but I forgot. Zooooomed up there for a quick look, not much change except fewer leaves. But I have visited the most lovely garden, and it has lots of trees in it, even if I’m not following them specifically…

Excuses, excuses. Understandable? Look at this:

Plas Cadnant 1

This is Plas Cadnant on Anglesey, just over the Menai Straits from Bangor. I had a business meeting, but since the web designer concerned also happens to be a keen gardener (hello, Janet aka Plantalicious, whose post on the day was considerably more prompt and rather more professional), guess where we decided to meet up? Guess how long we spent on business? Yup, about five minutes. Possibly less than we spent on cake. Certainly much, much, much less than we spent on the garden.

It’s stunning, and it’s right up my street, and I couldn’t (as is obvious) stop taking photographs. The planting, particularly in the less-wild parts of the woodland areas, is so intelligently unobtrusive and so much in harmony with the extraordinary setting that it blew me away. I also love ferns, which helps.

ferns

and rocks, and mosses, and silent pools reflecting the planting, and lichens…

lichens

Did I mention tree ferns?

tree ferns

Huge tree ferns. Tree ferns you can walk under easily.

Then there’s colour. Colour, bright in contrast with the formal planting:

contrast

autumn colours in the shade of the woodland,

baby leaves

and which are even more startlingly bright when backlit:

acer colour

I don’t know, I give up. Plas Cadnant almost left me speechless – suffice it to say that I upgraded my entry into a season ticket, and that we’ve already made arrangements to meet here at the end of October.

In the meanwhile – and do visit Plas Cadnant’s website as well as Plantalicious for more actual, real, hard information as opposed to the blogging equivalent of someone going ‘WOWZER!’ – here is a gallery of some of the things that had such an impact on me. Wonderful place.

PS: The cakes are pretty good too!

Summer’s back, in white and blue…

Oh, this has been a silly year. And, just to top off the most peculiar growing season, summer appears to be back. Except at night, mind. But that does mean that the garden is having a final flash of colour, though intriguingly there’s been a bit of a colour shift.

I normally associate this time of year with oranges and reds (heleniums – over) and yellows (rudbeckia – thinking about flowering but still not sure). Oh, I’ve got some, yes: marigolds and (I suppose they count) grasses, and for the reds a surprisingly late Bishop of Llandaff dahlia. But I’ve gone white:

echinacea

with a good big clump of echinacea which is quite unusual for me. (Yes, I know they’ve been chewed. Everything’s been chewed.)

I’m putting their success down to the fact that I went berserk in one of my post-work evening forays into the garden this summer and ripped out all the sidalacea which has been running riot. I didn’t know this would improve life for the echinacea; it was a happy accident, but a fortuitous one. I learned at our village garden club that echinaceas like air and light at the base (thanks to Christine ffoulkes Jones of Hall Farm Nursery for that info). They’ve certainly got that now that the ******* sidalacea is dust.

The cosmos have finally decided to flower,

cosmos and bee

and are attracting a lot of attention from the bees, even if this one didn’t hang around to be photographed in situ. The sheer number of cosmos partly accounts for the whitening of the garden, but I really wouldn’t have minded in the slightest if some of them had decided to flower earlier, honestly I wouldn’t.

The garlic chives are also late, but they’re providing a nice allium note in what is really autumn, so I don’t object in the slightest…

chives

and nor do I object to another late performer, the agapanthus. We split a huge clump last year, brutally hacking it into four and leaving one quarter where it was. Three of the quarters flowered at roughly – very roughly – the normal time; one didn’t. It’s only just gone over.

agapanthus

It’s the transplanted quarter which is probably in the most sheltered position, or so I thought. But in actual fact we had some vile east winds earlier in the season, and this is in the direct line of fire (look at the pittosporum on the left; that’s suffered a bit too). That is the only possible reason I can come up with, but it’s probably rubbish.

And then there’s a random blue which I love:

chicory

Chicory – just came up spontaneously. And I’d love it a lot more if it wasn’t so huge and didn’t sprawl everywhere, but it is a most beautiful colour so I daresay I can forgive it.

But the most notable plants in the garden at the moment are the actaeas, aka cimicifugas. It’s not just the sheer height (this one is almost as tall as the giant hedge which makes it about 2.5 metres),

actaea

it’s also the scent and the sheer presence. Even if mine are not as completely covered in butterflies as one in Karen’s (The Artist’s Garden) was last night:

karen's butterflies

Or at least if it has been, I’ve not noticed it. Direct sunlight would seem to be the key to butterfly madness (I’ve got bees, and so has Karen), so I shall go and watch mine closely in the middle of the day. Fingers crossed!

Tree following, October / November

It doesn’t seem right to call a post ‘October’ when so much of the dramatic change happened in one week, and that week was in November. We’ve had autumn colour, you see. And now we have bare branches, and the autumn colour is all over the grass, paths, beds, plants, compost heap, oil tank, cold frame, etc, and a tide of leaves has been blown up against the walls like spume from a stormy sea. One week. But a good week.

And the birches have been beautiful:

birchesMy birch – well, the one I have been following – is the one behind the Big Thug, and look at the colour of that trunk. When I started following my baby downy birch as part of Loose and Leafy‘s tree following meme in March the trunk was still distinctly orange, though there were signs that my babe might be growing up enough to change colour. I think it’s done it, at least at this level.

tree 2

Even higher up, very markedly orange until recently, there’s been a change as the old skin has been shed. Smaller branches and new twigs are still orangey brown (deep brown in the case of twigs), but the silveriness is extending higher and higher. Who’s a big boy, then?

The leaves started colouring – or maybe that should really be ‘uncolouring’ – very, very gradually with just one or two going all the way at first. Then more and more began to develop an elegant brown and golden border,

leaf

starting with a delicate brown tip. There are no more shield bugs (I can’t believe they have started hibernating already; apart from a couple of chilly nights, it’s still been quite mild), but the late-season sun has been very warm – ideal for basking – and they’ve been absent, so they must have gone elsewhere. England, probably, given the strength of some of the winds.

Then more and more of the leaves quite quickly became completely yellow, though they were still firmly attached. The ‘cones’ also suddenly matured and started shedding seeds everywhere:

birch 'cones'

I swear this happened overnight, though – as seen in by the ones in the background of the next shot – there are still a lot which haven’t quite matured enough. I’m also intrigued by the way in which they seem to shed naturally from the bottom; that end must ripen first.

more cones

And then, of course, along comes a big wind and all the leaves fly off. I can now almost count the ones remaining on the tree (sigh).

It’s not just the followed birch, of course, which is now all over the meadow; there are contributions from the other two, and from the ashes and apples (last year there would have been some from the rowan as well, but that succumbed to the January storms). They are scattered over everything, but most notably over the astonishing mushroom (non-)crop which has marked this autumn.

brown roll-rim

They sit rather nicely in the cup formed by a very mature brown roll-rim… and the mushrooms are over too, now.

See you next year, autumn…

so long..

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.

acer

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.

blueberry

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!

 

Everything’s gone yellow – at last

I thought it might not happen this year. There are years when the trees barely seem to change colour, then all the leaves go slightly brown and fall off. With, of course, one or two exceptions like my Acer which is always reliable (but then it has a head start, being an ‘autumn colour’ all year round).

acer

The blueberry is always good too, and that has been a lovely red for a couple of weeks. I like the shape of it and have made the decision not to net it next summer, but race the birds to the fruit instead. I’ll lose, but I’m prepared for that; the crop is never heavy and the cage is extremely ugly. Distracted by food. Ahem, back to autumn colours.

My ginkgo, usually a blaze of clear yellow, has let me down a little,

ginkgo

with most of the leaves falling off like this. Even the Rosa Rugosa hedges aren’t up to standard; the winds have ripped off most of the leaves before they turned. Those that are left are good, though, and the birches have finally done their thing too.

birches

But the leaves are coming off with great rapidity – they’ll probably be stripped bare by the weekend, especially if we add cold nights to the wind. Not enough cold nights so far, that’s the problem.

Until now I have been disappointed by the lack of autumn shades on my regular runs through to Dolgellau (I’m having intensive physiotherapy at the local hospital there). But yesterday the drive along the Mawddach Estuary was amazing, even though it took place in heavy mist and drizzle. Again, like the garden, the colours have changed suddenly, so when I had to go again today I took my camera. Interestingly, despite the broadly better weather, the colours didn’t seem quite so assertive. Perhaps the more moody atmospheric conditions yesterday made the range of colours stand out in contrast, but it’s still lovely. Plus there wasn’t any low, mizzly, drizzle, though it’s probably working on that.

Just click on an image below for a slideshow (and to escape it, just click the faint cross at top left, at least that’s where it is on my browsers)…

I don’t know about leaf-peepers in New England, but I’m happy with the more restricted palette of the Mawddach (the first time I ever saw it, years ago, I thought I’d somehow strayed into Middle Earth – not surprising; it was one of the places that influenced Tolkien). OK, the colours aren’t so astonishing as in the New England fall, but I love the subtlety. Plus you don’t get stuck in those horrific traffic jams.