Garden ramblings: October

Autumn colour of bright orange and yellow on the trees reflects upon the Octogan Lake at Stowe

Expert Stowe Gardener Anna Tolfree discusses the delights and highlights of working in a landscape garden in the autumn, with lots of hints and tips along the way.

‘’SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!’’

This first line from the poem ‘The Autumn’ by Keats always springs to mind in October for me. 

It is so true as I walk into the garden at this time of year and watch the mist swirling over the lake showing me occasional glimpses of golden and red trees as autumn takes a true hold of the garden.  It’s on days like these I really love working in the garden, yes it can be cold and damp but when it’s a dull and misty day the colours of autumn really stand out. 

The Palladian Bridge and Gothic Temple at Stowe
The view from the Temple of Friendship showing the Palladian Bridge with the Gothic Temple in the distance on top of a large grassy hill of Hawkwell Fields

The Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) is a great example of this: set to a backdrop of its own ruby red leaves are the truly beautiful bright pink and vivid orange seed heads.  Another one to look out for is the bright pink of the Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium).  It flowers in autumn and really shines out above the dark soil beneath. 

The trees themselves with their different shades of yellows and reds also stand out along the avenues and everywhere you choose to wander on your walk around Stowe.

Autumn berries
Spindle berries in Hatfield Forest

This time of year also heralds for us a big harvest - the humble apple.  We have many apple trees within Stowe, up in the Orchard in the Grecian Valley, around New Inn and the car park and also many in the parkland.  It takes us two weeks to harvest as many as we can with the help of all members of staff and our amazing volunteers, with it culminating in our Apple weekend in October, where we celebrate all things apple; with juicing, guess the weight of the apple, longest peel competition, apples can be bought and the café will be selling all sorts of apple themed food. 

Apples ripening on a tree.
A picture of apples ripening on a tree.

There is an important side to all this though and that is the preservation of the original orchard and that of the heritage varieties.  Many of the old varieties have been lost and it is our chance to try and preserve what we have left and educate people on how good they are.  Around the car park and New Inn we were able to source old fashioned varieties of apple to re-plant and continue with the restoration work we do at Stowe. 

There will also be the wondrous fruit that everyone loves to make their own special gin recipe….I am of course talking about the beautiful Sloe.  Everyone has their own secret location as to where they pick their sloes, but for those who do not there will be sloes for sale at the apple stall.

The atmospheric Grecian Valley
A wide picture of the Grecian Valley at Stowe. An atmospheric blue sky is dotted with clouds in the autumn. Trees surround the valley and at the head lies the large Grecian style Temple of Concord and Victory

As well as apple harvesting this month I shall be catching up on my last areas of long grass cutting before we stop until spring next year.  I will also be carrying on pruning the shrubs and limbing up the trees that require it. 

It is a great time to think about weeding and mulching your own beds at home.  Weeding the beds then adding a thick layer of mulch over the soil around your plants and shrubs at this time of year means that by spring the worms will have done all the work for you and incorporated the extra nutrient rich mulch into the soil so the plants and shrubs will have had a good feed and be ready to start growing again in spring. You can watch my hints and tips video on mulching here.

Autumn colour in the Elysian Fields with the Temple of Ancient Virtue
A circular domed temple, has a collonade of surrounding pillars under a portico. You can see a flight of steps leading up to an open chamber. this is the Temple of Ancient Virtue at Stowe in Buckinghamshire.

Any grass sowing needed on your lawn can be done this month too as the temperature is still warm enough to germinate the seed, but the added benefit of the soil being warm too after summer speeds up the germination process, so get sowing!!

Happy Gardening!