Garden Views-10-October 2018

October began with a lovely sunrise – just as many mornings in September 2018, had started. Autumn colours began to appear in the usual early suspects – Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ , Acer saccharinum, Amelanchier canadensis, and Sorbus ulleungensis ‘Olympic Flame’. But in the case of these last 3, the leaves have stayed on the trees for much longer than normal – usually they fall almost as soon as they have coloured up.

As with our crop of eating apples, the crab apples have had a wonderful year, with many fruit and great colour effects – in particular a tree grown from seed, which has very appealing yellow orange cherry-like fruit, hanging like Christmas tree decorations.

An extraordinary warm day on Wednesday October 10th, of sunshine all day gave the bees a last great chance to stock up on pollen and nectar, before named storm “Callum” hit on Friday 12th. 48 hours of 60 mph winds and near constant rainfall, produced our wettest ever day, and wettest sequence of 3 days since I began to record rainfall here. (37,100,43.5 = 3 day total of 170.5 mm). Compare this with the total October rainfall figures for the last 3 Octobers of 129, 71.8, 115 mm.

Significant flooding in Carmarthenshire suggested that it was indeed the worst event for over 30 years. 

Here, the stream burst its banks for only the second time we can recall, a few hedgerow trees were blown over, and the track’s central channel water run off system paid big dividends. 

Compare the photos below, taken in the days after “Callum”, with a similar view earlier this year, to assess how all that rain can alter the stream’s direction and shift huge amounts of stone in a very short time frame.

After this extremely wet weather, the rest of the month was benign, fairly dry and for the last 3 days of the month wonderfully sunny. The downside to such clear days, with a Northerly wind, were the hardest, earliest frosts that I can remember. Minus 6 degrees C for 3 nights running cut down all the late flowering perennials, and meant that most of the cutting back and mulching, especially in the tyre garden, was completed earlier than ever.

Also, very sadly, frosts of this severity cut back most of the Saxifrage fortunei, just as they were getting into full stride. There’s unlikely to be any viable seed produced by them this year.

In addition, these frosts, coming on the back of the hot dry summer, has meant that most leaves will be off the trees before the end of October – something that has been very rare in the last few years.

October 2018 was also notable as the first occasion I found examples of the Scarlet Caterpillarclub fungus, Cordyceps militaris, at Gelli Uchaf. Firstly on the edge of the mown path through our upper hay meadow, but a week later a crop of 9 separate fruiting bodies on the mossy croquet lawn. Since each one of these will have parasitised a beneath-the-ground moth caterpillar (hence the name), it implies a very healthy population of such caterpillars, even in the very poor grass, and almost none existent soil of much of the mossy croquet lawn! 

By the end of the month, the rainfall total, thanks almost exclusively to the 3 days of storm “Callum”, was high at 233.5 mm, but equally the PV inverter reading of 234 KWH, was over 30 % higher than the gloomy October last year. This image was taken the day that the Met Office highlighted how the last decade has seen the extremes of daily heat, and rainfall, across the UK exceed any previous decade of records. What does the next decade hold?