IX. September 2018
In early September the first conkers fell to the lawn, spiky cases shattering, fruit bouncing every which way. Summer finally began to release its grip, yielding to a round of autumnal storms mid-month. Each blast was allocated a meteorological name, all of them capable of causing damage to trees, people, animals, cars and buildings.
A rainfall of fruit from our largest horse chestnut tree, reputed to be around 350+years old, was sent hurtling to
the ground by formidable windy gusts. The tree's branches span a hotel car park on the other side of New Place's boundary
wall. To prevent conker, and branch, damage to vehicles the hotel closed-off car spaces beneath the horse chestnut. Meanwhile, New
Place’s tree-lined pathways were barricaded and off-limits to the public. In the morning, conkers (7 bucket loads), leaves, fallen branches and debris such as birds’ nests and sweet wrappers, littered the ground.
in the staff room was of change — from chilled white wine to red, from
flip-flops to boots.
The blurry edges of seasonal change caused a state of turbulence in the borders. Plants died down, went to seed, whilst others flowered and took centre stage, such as the colchicums in the Wild Bank.
A mixture of dahlias and roses grow, and are still blooming after many months, in two borders split by a Greg Wyatt statue depicting Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’. Steps lead down from the centre of the statue to the Great Garden lawn. Two peony borders are either side of the lower step.
For me at least, the dahlias and roses, although gorgeous, fail to outshine the fading foliage of the peonies. As they die down their green leaves slowly turn to shades of burnished orange and red. They remind me of sparklers, toffee apples and bonfire night, effigies of Guy Fawkes reduced to ashes, ghostly young faces illuminated by torches under their chin.
When I look at the roses and dahlias a feeling of comfort envelops me, but dead-heading only comes to mind.
With a change of weather, spiders of all kinds emerged to create their insect lairs. Latticework of fine thread hung taut in the air between stems, leaves, and buildings. One morning as I trudged past the garden office to the glasshouse I crashed through a web, my arms’ flailing in the air, taken by surprise. It was a garden spider’s work, otherwise known as a cross spider (Araneus diadematus). They are quite an insect - in the early seventies NASA sent a couple of garden spiders up into space to see if they could create a web in zero gravity. They quickly adapted and within two days they had built a perfectly symmetrical insect lair.
The most time consuming job of the
month involved cutting back the hedges of Euonymous japonicus, ‘green rocket’ along the long border pathway, and the old box hedges
that partition each border. Contractors
are employed to cut back the 300m long, Falstaffian, yew hedge in early October.
On 20 September all the gardening team, town and country, were deployed at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage for apple picking. The rain fell for most of the day and waterproofs were standard uniform. One large wooden crate, around a cubic metre in size, was filled with pecked and bruised windfalls picked from the damp grass ready to be mashed and crushed into cider. Another two crates were filled with more refined apples, those mostly still attached to the tree. These will be processed into apple juice and are hopefully absent of grubs and muck, although some apples' had earwigs nestled in the base of their stalks. It must have been annoying to see a bunch of strange aliens picking off their temporary sanctuaries. A few earwigs avoid the stress and enter the apples to their cores, avoiding the rain, eating the odd fruit aphid on the way. At least they will add extra nutrition.
Towards the end of the month the leaves fell more prolifically. Mornings were still and chilly, although the sun quickly burnt away the condensation from our cars. Dampening and early dark soon followed.
Top Tips Return
Let us return to socks (see earlier blogs) — for
any of you who work outdoors and suffer from cold feet, even on a nippy late September
morning — try Corrymoor Mohair Socks produced from the coat of Angora Goats.
Selina Scott Socks, for now, appear to be no longer available.
Corrymoor Socks are advertised as being: ‘For the determined gardener or polar explorer.’
It is impossible to imagine how you can exceed such an endorsement for a winter sock. So far I can recommend them, particularly as they can be worn days’ at a time without seeing a washing machine as they wick away sweat and do not retain any stench. Although that may depend on the person wearing them.
Plant of the month
Acidanthera murielae (Abyssinian gladiolus)
This is a bulb that has provided much needed shape and height to the two narrow borders adjoining the brick pathway leading from the hornbeam circle to the Great Garden. Its leaves, shaped like swords, glow in an early morning sunlight. The scent of its flowers were described by my line manager, Bertie, as: ‘Like an old woman’s perfume. Not horrible. Something that Miss Marple would spray on.’
Subtle with a gentle bite.
All our best wishes for October from the Gardening Team at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust