Gardener's ramblings: October 2019

Anna Tolfree, Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree Senior Gardener
A sunset view over a lake with a belt of trees on the horizon and their reflections in the water
Published : 13 Aug 2019 Last update : 08 Oct 2019

With summer firmly in the distant past, Senior Gardener Anna Tolfree takes a moment to pause and look ahead to the next tasks in hand. In this month's blog you can also discover how you can get involved with some of the autumn preparations at Stowe.

It's October already! I don’t know about you, but I seem to have misplaced summer and appeared at autumn…. don’t get me wrong I love autumn, I just can’t remember where summer disappeared. I remember being in May and having the promise of sunny days stretched ahead of me and all the plans I had for it. Now it’s passed by in a whirlwind of planting, mowing, strimming, planning, watering and all the other little jobs the season brings with it. 

I did pause and lift my head on the odd occasion to enjoy my surroundings and look at how well everything was progressing but then head down to carry on with various tasks in the garden. I sometimes worry that I don’t stop and enjoy the garden as much as I should. It’s a welcome excuse that you as visitors will stop either myself or one of the other gardeners to comment on your surroundings or ask a question.

Feel free to stop and chat to any of the gardeners at Stowe, they love to talk about what they're working on.
A man smiles as he talks to a lady and shows her some purple flowers
Feel free to stop and chat to any of the gardeners at Stowe, they love to talk about what they're working on.

Quite simply there’s nothing more I would rather do, than a moment of when I can share my passion for this wonderful place. I don’t mean to sound like it’s all hard work and no fun, every day is hard work but fun and enjoyable. When people stop me to talk, I enjoy it as it gives me a chance to chat about my love of the place (indeed it is difficult to stop me talking once I have started so beware!) and I think I speak for every member of the team across the property when I say we each have an immense passion for Stowe. You ask any member of staff or volunteer to talk about Stowe and I’m sure they will relish telling you about it and why it means so much to them personally.

I’d like to think that even without talking to anyone when you are at Stowe it comes across by the way you are welcomed, served or helped in some way with a query whilst you are with us that it’s obvious because I think it shows people really do enjoy working at Stowe and because being polite, helpful and knowledgeable becomes so easy and is second nature to every one of us when we love it so much.

Autumn berries
Spindle berries in Hatfield Forest
Autumn berries

Autumn is such a beautiful time of year and is just as colourful, if not more so than summer. The leaves on the trees have started to turn a wonderful array of buttery and gold yellows and scarlet reds, the rosehips are an amazing bright red against the last bits of green foliage. One of my favourite shrubs at this time of year though is the under rated spindle (Euyonmus europaeus).  It really comes into its own now with its bright ruby red leaves and vivid pink and orange seed heads, when it’s a misty morning it really shows up brightly through the mist.

The garden team have just started their autumn pruning and tidying up within the garden. We’ve spent a few days wading through water and silt to remove the reeds and rushes that encroach into the middle of the lake so it’s an important job to keep them in check every year. The unfortunate thing is that the mud in the lake smells absolutely appalling, so we’re quite grateful that we only have to do the job annually! 

The team at Stowe annually wade into the lakes to clear reeds and rushes.
A lady with her back to the camera stands thigh deep in water with waders on in a lake.
The team at Stowe annually wade into the lakes to clear reeds and rushes.

We’ll be making the final cut of long grass this month too. All our longer grass areas are cut just twice a year – this’ll be its second and final cut to keep the garden looking tidy over the autumn/winter period. We’ll also be planting several thousand bulbs again this year in various parts of the garden to extend our spring flower display starting with snowdrops in January right through to spring snowflakes, wood anemones and snakeshead fritillaria in April.

Leucojum vernum - spring snowflake - looks like tall snowdrops in the woodland garden
Leucojum vernum in woodland garden at Charlecote
Leucojum vernum - spring snowflake - looks like tall snowdrops in the woodland garden

We’d be grateful of a helping hand so if you would like to come along and join in with the gardeners we’ll be planting half term week 28 October – 1 November. Each day we’ll be in a different part of the garden, planting a different type so it’ll be really varied. The gardeners will also be more than happy to have a chat with you and answer any questions you may have about the garden in general.

Happy Gardening

A family of to adults and two children helping each other to get ready to plant bulbs

The big bulb plant at Stowe

Thanks for all your help in planting bulbs to enjoy next spring. Please take a look at our spring feature article below to plan a visit and see the fruits of your labour, or re-visit this article in 2020 to get involved with the next Big bulb plant. The spring flowers at Stowe have increased year on year, bringing colourful displays and delightful plants to the gardens. Between 28 October and 1 November get the whole family involved in some green-fingered fun to make the displays even bigger and better. The activity will run Monday to Friday, from 10am-4pm.