The September Garden at Aberglasney
Well here we are at the end of an August which just seems to have flown by.For most of my life this has been a time to get ready to go back to school but since I left teaching it has become more of a time to look forward to all the delights which the September garden can bring. It is a time for harvesting and perhaps storing produce from the vegetable and fruit beds and, as the days shorten, to watch out for the first signs of the rich autumn colours to come. It is also a great time to be looking ahead by planting trees, shrubs, climbers, perennials and of course spring flowering bulbs. You will no doubt have heard or read about ‘plant a tree for the Queen’s Jubilee’ which of course is next year but we aim to plant our tree this autumn while the soil is still warm and moist so that by next spring it is well established to greet the Jubilee year.
But before we look at the delights of September I must give a mention to some of the stars of our August garden. You already know that I am a great fan of Hydrangeas and, as always, they have not disappointed this summer. Our soil is on the acidic side so the blue varieties can obtain the aluminium from the soil which they need to produce the blue colour but there are still some subtle variations between the three ‘blue’ Lacecaps which we grow. One is a true blue which never shows any hint of pink while another plant only a few metres away starts blue and then as the large, outer flowers age changes from blue through violet to a dusky pink. In the back garden another but much older and larger Lacecap in a damp corner begins with white outer petals which gradually turn pink and finally end up a bluish-pink. At the same time the smaller inner flowers turn from white through pink to quite a strong blue. Not far away is a completely different Hydrangea, this one being a deep pink Mophead which never shows any hint of blue. I’m sure that this is mainly to do with the plants being different cultivars but possibly some small differences in soil and amount of sun also play their part in creating so much variety.
Our ‘true’ blue Lacecap / and ‘true’ pink Mophead Hydrangeas
The ‘blue’ Lacecaps that change colour as the flowers age
During August our climbing rose, Rosa ‘High Hopes’, flowered quite well and there are still some flowers to open in September but the star rose has been the rambler, R. ‘Malvern Hills’ which flowered for a second time throughout August. It has lovely, small pale yellow flowers which turn cream as they open and age. We grow it over a low trellis on the edge of the patio alongside yellow, orange and red ‘bedding’ plants, a weeping Acer whose finely cut leaves are just beginning to show some autumn colour and in the background the yellow, daisy-like flowers of the tall sunflower, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’. It is combinations like this that really bring out the best in the individual plants. Sometimes it occurs by design but I have to admit that more often than not it just happens by chance and for a few weeks at least is a sight to behold. This is certainly true for another combination nearby with a pink Japanese Anemone, A. x hybrida ‘Serenade’, a pink-purple Clematis, C. viticella ‘Madam Julia Correvon’, a dark pink Buddleja and in the background the red-purple leaves of Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’. This is even more satisfying as earlier in the year the Clematis which had been growing strongly suddenly wilted as Clematis sometimes do. The only thing to do if this happens is to cut the whole plant back down to the ground and hope that new shoots appear from the underground shoots and roots. This is why it is always a good idea to plant Clematis a little deeper than they are in the pot. As you can see from the photograph it did recover, is flowering well and is even climbing into the nearby Katsura tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum.
The pinks and purples / and the yellows and oranges
Other ‘August’ plants which have caught the eye are the Pheasant Berry, Leycesteria formosa, with its ‘over the top’ earring-like flowers followed by dark fruits which many birds seem to enjoy including our local Bullfinches. It can seed around but is easily removed if required and the main plant although around 6 feet high at the moment is cut back to about 2 feet each spring. Also doing well are two plants which we moved this spring in order to give them more light and space, the blue Sea Holly, Eryngium planun, and a tall Helenium with yellow petals and red-brown centres.
Leycesteria formosa / Eryngium planum and Helenium
But enough about our garden, what about the wonderful garden at Aberglasney as we move into September. You may have seen that the garden was featured in the July 31st edition of Gardeners’ World when it was visited by presenter Sue Kent from the Gower. The feature concentrated on the Upper and Lower Walled Gardens and really showed the two gardens off at their summer best. If you missed it I believe that it is still available on the BBC iPlayer and is definitely worth a look.
At the main entrance to the gardens the ‘hot’ border has filled out beautifully since our last visit and is full of striking colours and leaves from Bananas, Canna, Dahlia, Salvia, Fuchsia and the vibrant orange of the Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia robustifolia ‘Torch’ which I wrote about last month. The seasonal planting around the Cloister Garden has also grown well to fill the spaces and the cane wigwams of Thunbergia (Black-eyed Susan), white umbels of Ammi and the feathery foliage of Cosmos together with the pastel shades of the flowers giving the whole area a light, airy feel.
The ‘hot’ entrance bed / A lovely Cosmos in the Cloister Garden
The Upper Walled Garden has a very different feel with lots of large herbaceous perennials vying for space within the beds and the walls all clothed with greenery. There is so much to catch the eye in the beds and borders that it is almost impossible to pick a favourite. By September the planting is dominated by the many tall clumps of Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and the equally imposing mounds of Eupatorium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed). There are also large clumps of Aconitum (Monkshood) which, at the end of August, are full of buds just waiting to open. Given the lovely sunny, warm weather as we end the month it shouldn’t be too long before their blue flower spikes are adding to the already impressive show.
Repeated clumps of Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ / Eupatorium purpureum
Filling the gaps between these large clumps are so many beautiful plants in their own right from the tall, airy Fennels with their flat, yellow flower heads much admired by hoverflies, the colourful patches of Japanese Anemones in various shades of pink as well as the pure white of Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, the white and pink Phlox paniculata, the blues of Campanula lactiflora and Salvia, the striking orange of Ligularia and the stately seed stalks and heads of Stipa gigantea (Giant Oat). I must also mention two other plants, the chocolate coloured mounds of Ageratina ‘Chocolate’ which will produce their white flowers later in September and the ever present hardy Geraniums which have been flowering since June and some of which will no doubt continue on beyond September.
A border bursting at the seams / The beautiful Anemone x hybrida‘Honorine Jobert’
The Lower Walled Garden just through the gateway in the lower wall is also a riot of colour but in much ‘hotter’ hues of reds, oranges, yellows and purples. The south facing ‘tropical’ border against the north wall is full of large-leaved Bananas, Cannas, Gingers (Hedychium) and Cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) together with lots of flower colour from Calendula, Salvia, Nasturtium and Dahlia with one really striking purple Gladiolus catching the eye.
The south facing tropical border / A rather splendid Gladiolus!
Along the Crab Apple Tunnel the small fruits are beginning to colour and give promise of what is to come in the autumn but the most noticeable feature of the tunnel at the moment are the flowers and fruits of numerous ornamental Squashes and flowers of annual climbers such as Morning Glory (Ipomoea) which are taking advantage of the support provided by the tunnel sides. Other Squashes and Courgettes have also been planted in any spaces between the diagonal rows of flowers for cutting, a clever way of keeping down the weeds and making the best use of any available space.
Interesting additions to the Crab Apple Tunnel
In the Woodland and Stream area the colour is predominantly green with patches of colour from some of the later flowering plants and signs that autumn is not too far away. One such sign was to be heard all over the garden, the number of Robins singing again after their efforts of the spring and early summer in rearing young. This singing to secure territory is a sure sign that autumn is just around the corner. Several Persicarias are still in flower with their pink spikes held well above the foliage and large clumps of Clerodendrum (Glory Flower) are showing buds which will no doubt open during September. Perhaps the most striking flower colour comes from the orange Ligularia by the pool with its Bullrush sculpture by David Petersen.
One of several Persicarias / and the promise of Clerodendrum
A moisture loving Ligularia / and the Bullrush sculpture
We bumped into head gardener Joseph nearby and amongst other things asked about the large-leaved Magnolia in the woodland. Perhaps unsurprisingly he confirmed that it is just that, Magnolia macrophylla, which is now about 25 years old. He was also telling us about two experimental areas he is trialling plants in, both beneath conifers which are notoriously difficult places for many plants. One plant which has done well already in the area beneath the conifers on the edge of the stream garden is Cyclamen hederifolium (Ivy-leaved Cyclamen) which are just beginning to come into flower after lying dormant through the summer. Plants such as these do well in these harsh conditions partly because they are not swamped by stronger, larger plants which struggle to grow there. If you have a difficult area below conifers or even deciduous trees in your garden have a look at what is growing in this experimental area and the second one which is under a large Yew at the top of the Alpinum for ideas to take back home with you. I will also endeavour to keep you posted on these two areas over the coming months.
The Sunken Garden and Wisteria Tunnel are full of vibrant colours at this time of year and with the interesting and reflective pool is a great place just to sit for a few minutes to take it all in. Colour comes from Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Crocosmia, Rudbeckia, Helenium and Clematis along with several other good late flowering plants.
The colourful Wisteria Tunnel and a view of the mansion across the pool and Cloister wall.
The Pool Border on the other side of the impressive stone wall which is clothed with a wonderful Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus) has changed dramatically over the last month. The wigwams of canes support several different annual climbers and give height to the planting scheme. They are surrounded by a wonderful mix of flowering plants including Dahlia, Salvia and Ammi with their very different flower colours and forms and dotted between them are some interesting and attractive grasses including the lovely Penisetum glauca ‘Purple Baron’.
The Pool border has come so far in just three months.
On the other side of the garden on the hill slope to the south of the mansion the predominant colour is again green in all its wonderful shades but punctuated by flower colour from the truly magnificent Hydrangeas which are as good now as they were in early summer. Joseph tells me that there are over 1000 different species and cultivars throughout the garden and in a walk up from the Alpinum through Bishop Rudd’s Walk and into the Asiatic Garden you can enjoy and wonder at many of them. We were pleased with our Hydrangeas at home until we saw the beauty of those at Aberglasney!
Just some of the lovely Hydrangeas / and hints of the autumn colours to come
Finally for our late August visit we popped into the warmth and humidity of the Ninfarium and were struck by two things in particular. Firstly the luxuriant growth of many of the plants was spilling over onto the pathways so that in places there was definitely a ‘jungle’ feel. Secondly dotted around in corners, on larger plants, in old windows spaces and in small recesses are numerous fantastic Orchids which the more I look at the more I can appreciate the beauty and intricacy of their flowers. If you are a fan you might be interested to know that the Orchid Study Group will be presenting their Annual Welsh Orchid Festival on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th September. Entry to the festival is free but normal entrance fees to the gardens still apply. Also through September and into October there is a series of art exhibitions held in the mansion’s main hall. More details on all these events can be found on the Aberglasney website.
Just two of the exotic Orchids in the Ninfarium.
As for September jobs in the garden a full list can be found in the blog archive for September 2019. In our own garden Teresa and I will be concentrating on planting with next year in mind, dividing herbaceous perennials, planting spring flowering bulbs, planting up containers for autumn and winter, helping the lawn recover from the trials of the summer, continuing to harvest crops from the vegetable beds and greenhouse and sowing either autumn and winter crops such as winter lettuce or green manures. Details on all of these tasks can be found in the blog archives for September 2020.
We will be back at Aberglasney in October to enjoy the autumn colours and hope you will join us there again. Until then keep safe and enjoy your September gardens.