November – Business as usual

It’s November and for the first time, we – along with The Vine House Café and the Garden Shop – are open through November and up until December 19th.

The clocks have gone back and the evenings are drawing in. The Vine House will finish serving at 3pm and last entry to the garden will be at 3pm with gates closing at 4pm. This is a new venture for us and we hope people will visit to see the garden in all seasons.

The garden is clothed in the beauty of autumn right now. In Alison’s garden, the Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) continues to delight with every shade of red imaginable whilst the leaves of the snakebark maple (Acer capillipes) are a brilliant butter yellow.

Crab apples (Malus sylvestris) ‘John Downie’, ‘Butterball’ and ‘Rosehip are covered in fruits of russet red, golden yellow and crimson; Sorbus acuparia ‘Beissneri’ bears delicate creamy-coloured berries and the bark of the silver birches (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) planted next to the Physic Garden glows in the late autumn sunshine.

When the sun is shining (and it’s not raining in biblical proportions), the chance to see the garden every day as it sheds the bright colours of summer, dons the more subtle palette of winter and puts itself to bed is a privilege I feel lucky to have.

It is still pretty warm for the time of year, making the soil correspondingly warm also. Perfect conditions for us to lift and move plants and shrubs around the garden. Consequently we are indulging in the horticultural equivalent of making hay whilst the sun shines.

The Penstemon trial we were conducting with Which? Gardening magazine has come to an end after three years and we will be replanting them around the garden with the lion’s share going into the Long Border giving it an extended season of interest.

It was a shame that the vast majority of the trial was under lockdown which meant that I didn’t get the opportunity to talk about it much. The main objective of the trial was to assess and compare the different cultivars, focusing on their suitability to be grown in a mixed border.

We were given 30 different penstemons to plant and assess every week against a set of criteria which included their height and spread, flowering duration, foliage impact, i.e. any autumn colour and pest and disease resistance. Records were carefully kept and have now gone back to Which? Gardening for the results to be studied. We won’t have been the only trial site so their complete results will compare the plants across the UK.

It’s the first time the garden has been involved in something like this and it has been a lot of fun as well as a great chance to learn about penstemons in some depth. We hope that more opportunities like this will come our way.

In Alison’s garden we are moving out a lot of the asters to better show many off the trees and shrubs in this garden. We are also giving the White Garden an overhaul, taking out a sad-looking viburnum that was overshadowed by a beautiful multi-stemmed Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian serviceberry) and doing neither of them any favours.
The Amelanchier’s beauty can now be seen, particularly as the light fades and the shadows lengthen. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ has been planted on the other side of the path in the White Garden, providing gorgeous creamy white mopheads throughout the summer and well into autumn.

So plenty still to do and now you can come and see us doing it, all the way till Christmas. Now where did I put that Christmas card list?

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