November at Aberglasney
November can be a dull and damp month when many gardeners are not so keen to spend too much time outside. However, on the better weather days there is always something to tempt us into the garden or at least to enjoy views of from inside in the warm and dry. There is also work to be done in preparing the garden for the coming winter and perhaps to catch up with some general garden maintenance. It is also still a good month for planting unless the soil gets too wet and if you are looking for plants which will give more interest in your garden over the coming months it might be worth having a look at my blog for November 2020 in which I suggested some good performers for this difficult part of the year. These include flowering plants, those with colourful bark, stems and leaves, plants which produce attractive berries and hips as well as evergreen shrubs which can provide structure and interest throughout the winter.
In our own garden this autumn we have been enjoying leaf colour on some of our Maples (Acer) and Cherries (Prunus) although I have to admit that all the cloud, rain and wind of the second part of October has not helped in this regard. Our ‘waterfall’ Maple was looking at its autumn best in the middle of the month but hadn’t a leaf left on it by the end!
Our ‘waterfall’ Acer in mid-October Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’
There has also been flower colour with the faded beauty of the Hydrangeas, the vibrant red of Schizostylis coccinea ‘Major’ (Kaffir Lily), the last few flowers on a very pretty and tall Cosmos, the pinks and purples of Aster (now Symphyotrichon) and the darker pink of Sedum spectabile (now Hylotelephium).
Even as they fade Hydrangeas have a certain beauty Schizostylis coccinea ‘Major’
In addition the birds as well as ourselves, albeit in different ways, have been enjoying the berries and hips on Cotoneaster, Rose and Pheasant Berry (Leycesteria) some of which will no doubt last into the new month.
Cotoneaster berries Hips of the Dog Rose, Rosa canina
At Aberglasney in November the contrast with the late summer/early autumn garden which we saw last in late September couldn’t be more striking. Most of the flowering plants have reached the end of their flowering periods, gone are the summer season bedding schemes to be replaced by the displays for next spring and the whole garden feels to be in a state of transition- not that this is a surprise since after all autumn is a season of great change.
At the entrance the small bed which greets the visitor on arrival is the first sign of this change. On our last visit it was a riot of exotic shapes and colours which by late October have been replaced by spring bedding in the form of Forget-me-not (Myosotis) and no doubt hundreds of spring bulbs.
Late September Late October
Further down towards the mansion the Cyclamen hederifolium still carpet the ground beneath an enormous conifer with more of their attractive leaves showing since our last visit. Also growing well in this difficult spot is a large patch of Bishop’s Hat (Epimedium). This is another good plant for dry, shady areas with its evergreen foliage and in spring interestingly shaped flowers in pinks and white.
Just beyond the mansion and all around the Cloister Garden all the summer plantings have now gone to be replaced by more Forget-me-nots and spring bulbs. The team of gardeners here have clearly been very busy over the last month and there was also evidence during our visit of their continuing labours.
In the same way the Upper Walled Garden has moved on dramatically since last month. The vast array and variety of flowers has now been replaced by a sea of seed heads although there are still some flowers to discover. The beds themselves are in the process of being cleared of old growth so that spring bulbs can be planted and areas of bare soil top dressed with compost made on site. The garden composts all of its green and brown waste almost on an industrial scale in a series of very large compost bays which can be seen just above the car park. I always feel that it makes my attempt to compost as much material as possible rather feeble by comparison! Apart from the seed heads the other aspect of this part of the garden which catches the eye at this time of year is that the underlying structure becomes more apparent with the symmetrical shapes of the beds and the clipped Yew cones really standing out.
Down through the gateway in the west wall the Lower Walled Garden or Kitchen Garden is also in a state of transition with the ‘hot’ colours of the summer having given way to the more subtle colours of autumn. Perhaps a little surprisingly though the leaves of the Cannas and the flowers of Verbena bonariensis ,at least in late October, are still holding on to the last vestiges of summer. More autumnal in feel are the numerous squashes and pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and colours and the wonderful seed heads which on the windy day of our visit created real movement even in the so-called shelter of a walled garden.
The view from the edge of the woodland towards the stream garden below was one of great activity obviously both in recent days as well as on the day of our visit. The majestic Gunneras have literally been cut down to size and lie in strange wigwam shapes created to help protect the crowns of the plants from the worst of the winter weather.
There are also some lovely autumn colours here in particular from the Spindle Bushes (Euonymus alatus and europaeus) which, weather permitting, will be even more splendid in November. Another plant starting to ‘colour up’ is the Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) and nearby are some large-leaved and wonderfully named Tetrapanax papyrifera which add drama to this edge of the woodland.
Just across the grass from the woodland is a fine example of a Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) which has been planted in memory of Francis Cabo,t one of the founding benefactors of the gardens at Aberglasney. This combines beautifully with the large, lime-green leaves of Catalpa bignoniodes ‘Aurea’- I don’t make these names up, honestly! More good views of autumn colour can be seen from the top of the Cloister Walk looking back over the pool towards the woodland.
Even more autumn colour is to be found in the Asiatic Garden up the slope at the rear of the mansion with its numerous Japanese Maples, Rowans, Cercis and Cherries as well as some more unusual trees such as Cladrastis kentuckea or lutea, the Yellow Wood with its striking yellow-orange leaves.
This area also has lots of colour to offer from its many fruiting trees and shrubs with Sorbus ‘Copper Kettle’ and the strange, strawberry-like fruits of the flowering Dogwoods ( Cornus) catching the eye in particular.
There are still some flowers to be found in this part of the garden where many of the Hydrangeas are showing their fading but still beautiful colours along with a few surprises such as a very early flowering Camellia! Other flowers which we came across in various parts of the gardens include Mahonia, Jasminum nudiflorum, Liriope muscari, Saxifraga fortunei and I am delighted to say quite a few hardy Geraniums.
As for jobs in November a full list can be found in the blog archive for November 2019. For more detail have a look at the final section of the November 2020 blog where I looked at collecting leaves to make your own leaf mould, cleaning greenhouses, pots, tools and bird boxes and the question of to dig or not to dig. November is also for many gardeners a month for ‘tidying’ the garden ready for the winter and there are good reasons for doing so. However, as we are hopefully gardening now more with wildlife in mind there are also good reasons for not being too tidy. With this in mind we try to leave stems and seed heads which are still upright in place, allow some piles of leaves to remain in corners and under shrubs and create log piles in some out of way places. Recently I also went as far as making an insect hotel from some offcuts of timber. Helping insects, many of which are beneficial in the garden, to over-winter helps them, your garden and your birds and mammals to thrive and really has to be well worth the effort.
I shall be back in December for the highlights of the last month of the year- there are some, I assure you- but until then keep safe and well and enjoy your garden when you can.