Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

The graphic words of John Keats in 'Ode to Autumn' written in the 19th century equally can be written today. Apple trees are weighed down with their delicious ripe fruit; it's harvest time! Onions, courgettes, leeks, aubergines, kale, turnips, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions, swiss chard, salads and beans fill the vegetable gardens and glasshouses, and are all being harvested and enjoyed at the Cookery School.

Day temperatures are still above normal but the days are shorter now, and the nights longer and cooler. Plants respond due to photoperiodism, which is a plant’s developmental response to the seasonal change of the length of light and dark periods, i.e. day-length and night-length; together with decreasing temperatures, it indicates a seasonal change, i.e. the onset of winter.

Colour and Fragrance in the Herb Garden

Over in The Herb Garden, Russian Sage (Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’) with its aromatic leaves and upright spikes of violet blue spires, grows alongside the strongly scented and bitter tasting Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). In harmony in a nearby bed, are the blue flowers of the Red Dandelion Greens (Italico Rosso) a leafy chicory with beautiful red stems and mid-veins. Bunches of Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) with their starry white flower heads are covered with butterflies and bees. It’s butterfly time in the garden!

In the mint bed, which contains up to ten different varieties, there is a mint that tastes of chocolate; After-Eight mint (Mentha x piperita ‘After Eight’), a Banana mint; (Mentha arvensis ‘Banana’) and another delicious mint, the Strawberry Mint (Mentha ‘Strawberry’). It is recommended to plant mint in a container, as their roots tend to be very invasive. However, we use a method of placing slates vertically in the ground between the different plants. This prevents the roots of each type of mint encroaching on the one beside it.

The box hedging has had a second trimming this season and now will hold its structure for the winter months ahead. The artichokes still retain their vibrant purple blossoms and architectural structure. Herbs continue be harvested, including Summer Savoury which can be used fresh or dried; it’s traditionally cooked with pulses and broad beans.

The Soft Fruit Area

Autumn raspberries are being enjoyed now; varieties such as ‘Autumn Bliss’, ‘Polka’ and ‘All-Gold’ will continue to produce delicious fruit until October. The vines in this area have produced healthy bunches of grapes; the warm summer months have been in their favour.

The Vegetable Field

The vegetable field has never been so full, it’s bursting with healthy organic vegetables; leeks, winter cabbages, sprouts, carrots, pumpkins, wheat, celeriac, broad beans, runner beans and beetroot fill the rows. Bold yellow Sunflowers stand upright amongst the pumpkin plants; Calendula, Cosmos and Alyssum edge the rows adding bright colour to the field.

Preparation for Halloween!

The first bay as you enter the glasshouse is already reminiscent of a Halloween scene; different varieties of pumpkins and squash plants climb up to the roof give it an altogether jungle-like feel. By October, enormous pumpkins and squash will be suspended in mid air, a sight to behold! Elsewhere, courgettes, sweet and chilli peppers, aubergines, kale (Cavolo Nero and curly), tomatoes, spring onions, French beans, cape gooseberries, salads and herbs fill the glasshouse bays. Grapes on the vines, figs, pomegranate and the first ever passionflower fruits are almost ready for harvest. It’s the second crop of figs this year.

We have started a new method of supporting the courgettes plants, using horticultural string; it is wound around the main stem and attached to an overhead wire with a slipknot, it helps to keep the fruit produced by the plant off the ground, hence reducing botrytis and mould, and allowing more light at the developing courgettes. Any diseased or damaged leaves are removed.

The roof of the glasshouse is home to hundreds of drying onions; all will be used in the coming year in the Cookery School. Colour is plentiful in the glasshouse too, the climbing ‘Morning Glory ‘Pomea’ with its pale purple flowers, Tagetes ‘Yellow Gem’ is a pretty small headed French marigold which helps to deter aphids, and Zinnia ‘Giant Double Mix’ with their deep pinks and reds.

Herbaceous Borders and Pleasure Gardens

The herbaceous borders are still providing enjoyment with autumn flowering perennials such as Rudbeckia, Sedums, Asters and Phlox. The Myrtle tree in the Old Pleasure Garden is draped with white scented blossoms; and everywhere, delicate Roses continue to blossom in the Autumn sun, providing pleasure and fragrance.

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