October- As summer turns to autumn

Chris Flynn, Head Gardener Chris Flynn Head Gardener
Boy walking through autumn arboretum

The days shorten, a cold wind begins to blow and the bright greens of summer bow out to autumn hues. The time to stay under the duvet just a little longer is upon us, the gardeners' work however, continues on.

One of the nicest ways to enjoy a dreary autumn day is to view it through a window from a comfy chair, or perhaps by the open fire of a country pub. So far though, this October has largely been dry and bright and although the time for making hay is passed, there is still a lot to do around the garden whilst the sun shines. As the team are toiling away, propagating, planting, mowing and tidying I’ll take a moment to address the phrase on everyone’s lips at this time of year, autumn colour.

Is the autumn colour at Dyffryn any earlier or later this year given the season we’ve had? No, not particularly, but there does seem to be an increased vibrancy about it. Reds, oranges, yellows and pinks all jostling in happy competition for the final adoring glances of the season before the winter chill finally releases the leaves from the branches. A cheer for yellow! So often the most underrated of autumn colours, as it is often mottled with brown or a pre-cursor to a more vibrant orange or red, but not in the case of Carya cordiformis. At the Southern end of the arboretum meadow the rich, shining pure yellow of this stately tree can’t help but draw you in and if you catch it near the end of the afternoon in the rich light that is cast by the low sun, the tree glows.

The Kaleidoscope Award for the most colours in one tree must be shared by Acer tartaricum and Parrotia persica, the Persian Ironwood. Both trees seem to have every colour and shade running from deep purples that border on black through reds, pinks, oranges, yellows and all the way back to green.

As we move from our summer lawn care into autumn, the regular hum of the mower makes way for the more discordant sound of the scarifier and regular thudding of an aerator. Often the most successful lawn renovation work will look, for a while, like you’ve thrown away the height setting on your mower and have gone out to commit a vicious crime against your grass. Was it not punished enough during the long dry summer when every desiccated blade crunched under foot? I can only hope that your lawns, like ours have mostly recovered from their heatwave ordeal, but many still bear the scars of their seasonal battle with the sun. This seemingly rough treatment in autumn however, when followed by the careful application of top dressing and over seeding will help remove moss and dead grass, helping to reduce disease and knock back your turf weeds. It will also encourage each individual grass plant to branch or tiller, giving you a thick lustrous sward that will in turn enable you to achieve the beautiful striped finish that will set off the garden through the next year.

At some point I’ll get around to extolling the virtues of cylinder over rotary mowers, but perhaps I’ll save that for when the days start to get longer again.

Chris Flynn.  

Head Gardener, Dyffryn Gardens.