October began with sunshine, clear skies and cool nights, under the influence of the first high pressure system of the summer –. hang on, in October?!!This broke down, and 4 days of heavy rain followed, before another high pressure system built. Being some way from the valley bottom, the garden at Gelli escapes many early frosts, when the coldest air rolls down into our lower meadows, giving a white dusting early in the morning. But the initial forecast for at least a week of dry weather saw me topping most sections of these lower meadows which hadn’t already been cut, with the BCS power scythe, and rowing the light litter ‘hay’ up. Obviously not enough warmth to completely dry the cut grass, but brisk drying winds over an extended period still manged to dry stems and leaves quite effectively. New waves of waxcaps, and other mushrooms, continued to appear throughout all our fields through the month, some are probably species I haven’t noticed before.
Still worried about a very harsh winter, and after noticing that some of the sheep were preferentially eating this dried material, which I’d originally thought I would collect and burn, I instead opted to try to make some primitive hay cocks/ricks. After a total of nearly two weeks without rain, the weather broke the day before the visit of Dr. Noel Kingsbury to Cothi Gardeners to deliver a talk to a full hall at Pumsaint. The next day, after staying with us at Gelli, we were joined by 20 participants for a workshop. Noel had billed it thus:
The rabbit’s eye view – long term plant performance
How long will plants survive? Will they spread? How will my new border look in five years time? This full-day garden-based workshop aims at encouraging participants to observe garden and landscape plants, focussing on their growth through the year, looking at how they compete with each other, how to assess prospects for their longevity and their suitability for a variety of garden locations. Gardeners and designers can then use their experience and knowledge of plants to plan for the maximising of interest and the minimising of maintenance at all seasons.
I aim to get people thinking about how plants are linked to their natural habitats and ecology and how this connects to the way we use them in gardens. I am particularly interested in getting students to get ‘the rabbit’s eye view’ – believing that close observation of garden plant growing habits and life cycles can add enormously to our ability to be good gardeners and designers but also add to a better appreciation of our plants.
In the end, the morning had dawned dry and blue skies and even sun had appeared by the time the first folk had arrived, several travelling over 100 miles to be with us, though outdone by Staci who had flown over from the USA to be here!
A fantastic day followed, with a mix of lecture/power point/group discussion, and later more discussion and observation in the garden, all drawing on Noel’s huge breadth of ecological, plant and garden knowledge and brilliant communication skills which all participants described as both excellent, and excellent value for money, in an end of day questionnaire.
At last with the dry weather the Asters performed.Butterflies and bees had opportunities for some late nectar feeding, and as always, our reliable stars of the autumn garden: Cyclamen hederifolium. Persicaria vaccinifolia.and Saxifraga fortunei rubrifolia were all on fine form.
All the dry weather over the last 6 weeks, along with many very cool nights, meant that the year is proving to be a pretty good one for autumn leaf colours, particularly since many shrubs and trees are now beginning to get to a significant size.