Garden Views-10-October 2021

October began with a single day’s bright, breezy and cool interlude from the 5 very wet days which finished September.

Before feeling like the challenging autumnal month it often turns out to be. Wet and windy, at least during the day!

Waxcap mushrooms appeared in profusion in several fields after the shock of cooler nights and heavy rain in the week before, which brought the long period of weather stasis in September to a close. In particular, hundreds of Pink (Ballerina) Hygrocybe calyptriformis, in the steep field, early in the month.

Asters were very late into flower, and will struggle in the wet days forecast ahead, but the Lilium speciosum album which were lifted and split last autumn, have performed really well in spite of the generally dry year.

After taking off a single, insulated super of honey from the national honey hive which also produced 4 swarms this year, I await the wasp colonies to die out before chancing to bring it inside for processing.

This colony is still left with 3 full boxes, (1 brood box) going into winter, and two of the three viable and re-housed swarms are still looking in good shape at the beginning of this month, judging by numbers of active workers, and pollen intake. I’m hopeful that we might see spring 2022 with 4 active colonies, an improvement of 1 on last year, and possibly an optimum number for our flower rich location, for bees managed in a minimal intervention way.

After a run of many wet days, the weather returned to late September’s theme of settled conditions, unseasonably mild, with some stunning morning sunrises, and many days with almost no wind. Finally the Asters began to bloom en masse, and a little more autumn leaf colour appeared around the garden.

In the upper hay meadow, a badger returned to rip up large areas searching for chafer grubs, something that we’ve escaped for the last 3 years. and around the house and garden, the annual bulb planting continued, this year pared back to a more manageable 3,000 or so. Some terrace tubs have also been reworked and removed, a surprisingly slow and tedious job.

Several weak areas of the garden have been tidied at last, and Fiona is undertaking a periodic de-ferning. One can to a degree control perennial weeds with diligent and regular weeding, but ferns can pop up anyway, and within a few years, the larger form can become a dominant plant , and at that stage, a major issue to remove.

We’re also working really hard to massively declutter the main barn and other outbuilding, with a view to making more use of them for under cover seating options, for any garden visitors during inclement weather. It’s amazing how many trips to the tip have been needed after a couple of decades of gradual dumping and hording. Towards the end of the month, many more waxcaps appeared in the meadows, and the croquet lawn became a fungi haven as a large crescent of Armillaria, honey fungus, was joined by earthtongues, and at least 3 different waxcaps, for the first time. Just 25 years or so, after this area of lawn was created!

The annual appearance of the Hen-and-woods fungus, with its distinctive sickly sweet smell, coincided with these fungal eruptions, at the base of our old oak.And late in the month, our many Saxifage fortunei all continued to delight both us and our bees with their frothy white flowers. The month ended with a couple of bright days, after being at last pounded with strong winds and heavy rain whilst we were away for 3 days in Shropshire.

This final spell of rain pushed the monthly rainfall up to a hefty total of 288.3 mm, and the eventual PV output of 167.5 KWH shows the patchy nature of the month’s autumnal weather, although as with September, the average temperature for the month was significantly above the 30 year long term average, in what looks like being another warm year. According to the Met Office, a whopping 1.6 degrees above the 30 year average (or even greater, 2.0 degrees C anomaly for minimum temperatures for Wales as a whole).