Autumn

Pete Tasker, Senior Gardener Pete Tasker Senior Gardener
Crimson Glory Vine at Hill Top

After a fairly average Lake District summer, autumn is definitely here.

We’ve had a couple of light frosts and the leaves have started to take on the golden hues that make the passing of summer a little more bearable. 

Turning of the leaves

Different tree species lose their leaves at different times and it's always the horse chestnuts that go first after a rather half-hearted display of autumn colour. Sycamores are next and they don't even try to put on a show, their leaves turning from an unremarkable green to a sludgy brown before they drop (I don't like sycamore trees, except in my log-pile). Beech trees do much better and their leaves have coloured up nicely with the oaks not far behind.  

An autumn colour specialist 

Hill Top garden has a few autumn colour specialists; one of the best is the Crimson Glory Vine which covers the unsightly back wall of the Tower Bank Arms next door. A native of the Russian Far East, Korea and Japan it seems to enjoy the comparatively warm and wet climate of the Lake District. In a good year it will grow 6 metres or so (that’s 20 feet in old money) and if I didn’t cut it hard back every year it would quickly engulf the pub and most of the village!

Crimson Glory Vine adorning the back wall of our neighbouring pub, the Tower Bank Arms
Crimson Glory Vine at Hill Top
Crimson Glory Vine adorning the back wall of our neighbouring pub, the Tower Bank Arms

A much less rampant shrub with good autumn colour is the rather delightful (and almost unpronounceable) Enkianthus  campanulatus  or  Redvein Enkianthus.  As well as lovely red/orange leaves at this time of year it has delicate pink bell shaped flowers in spring, definitely a recommendation for a small garden with an acid or neurtral soil.

The colourful Enkianthus has these pink bell-shaped flowers in spring, and orange leaves in autumn
Enkianthus flower in spring at Hill Top
The colourful Enkianthus has these pink bell-shaped flowers in spring, and orange leaves in autumn

There are still some flowers in the garden, even at this stage of the year, my favourite of which is the Pot Marigold. So called not because you can grow it in a pot (which you certainly can) but because the bright orange petals can be used as a substitute for saffron. The ones at Hill Top are descended from seeds I brought back from a trip to Tunisia in 1996 and I’m very careful to collect seeds at the end of every year to keep them going.

The bright orange petals of the Pot Marigold can be used as a substitute for saffron
A close-up of a Pot Marigold flower
The bright orange petals of the Pot Marigold can be used as a substitute for saffron

Also still flowering are the Crimson Flag or, wait for it, Schizostylis coccinea. This one’s a native of South Africa and its crimson flowers are a welcome splash of colour in the autumn border.

Crimson Flag is still flowering in the garden borders at this time of year
Crimson Flag flowers at Hill Top
Crimson Flag is still flowering in the garden borders at this time of year

Work in the garden at this time of year is mostly dead-heading, weeding and generally tidying up the borders; although I don’t like to cut too much back as the borders provide shelter and a food source for birds and even the dead stems look good with a hard frost on them. Then of course there are the leaves to sweep up, lots and lots of leaves!

Hill Top house closes for the winter on Sunday 3 November but the shop and garden are open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until Christmas. I hope to see you for a chat whilst I'm sweeping soon. 

Pete