Autumn Delights

Saturday, December 05, 2015 - by Timothy Fraser

October has now arrived. Autumnal mists and chilly nights are, bit by bit, penetrating the garden. Never-the-less, all three garden rooms still have many delights to offer.

‘Rosa Rugosa Alba’ – in the Herb Garden – has flowered repeatedly all summer long (while also performing its role as sentry hedge before our landscape descends into the wooded ravine below). The pure white blooms, with their pervasive scent reaching far beyond the boundary of this garden room, have now been replaced by juicy, tomato-like hips.

Rosa Rugosa ‘Alba’

Because we (purposefully) failed to dead-head these roses in the summer, the resulting preponderance of rose hips will provide a veritable feast for hungry birds throughout the autumn and winter months.

Many of the roses in the Rose Garden are offering up their repeat flush of blooms – a welcome display.

Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’

Opulent velvety purple roses and named after the quintessential Surrey home (and garden!) of the iconic Gertrude Jekyll – considered one of the greatest gardeners of the late 19th and early 20th century.

While spring and early summer in the garden celebrate the freshness and optimism of a new gardening year, autumn begins to reveal fading glories of the spent summer. The melancholy moods that prevail on these dull, misty days are reflected in the beauty of a faded bloom of Rosa ‘Baron de l’Ain’.

Rosa ‘Baron de l’Ain’

In self-indulgent contrast, the Portland rose ‘Rose de Rescht’ is enjoying another lavish and decadent second flush.

Rosa de Rescht

Grey sage provide the perfect fora for Rosa ‘Madam Isaac Pereire’. Her luxurious heavy blooms exude an intoxicating scent, which is wafted along with the damp mist, permeating throughout the autumn Rose Garden.

Madam Isaac Pereire

The repeat flowering nature of Reine des Violettes continues to charm and delight us with her succession of unique violet tints; proffering a selection of hues that cannot be claimed by many other roses.

Reine des Violettes

If the rest of autumn and winter ahead is not too harsh, the hybrid musk rose ‘Belinda’ will continue to flower until Christmas, and even beyond.

Hybrid musk ‘Marjorie Fayre’

As the flushes of summer disappear from the garden, carefully selected varieties of Fuchsia are grown in pots to compensate, prolonging interest through the autumn time. In preference to the varieties with larger, overblown flowers, fuchsias with smaller, more delicate blooms are sought after.


Rhus typhina

Rhus typhina, stag’s horn sumach, is one of the finest small trees for any garden. The thick, widely-branching stems are covered in velvety, dark brown hairs (which are red when young!). In our Rose Garden, it is one of the last trees to come into leaf in spring with its huge, finely-cut fern-like foliage lending it a somewhat exotic air. Late to leaf in spring, it is amongst the first and most brilliant flags of the autumn season, when its leaves turn to display spectacular tints of orange and scarlet. Following its fiery autumnal show, the enormous seed heads become more prominent. On female trees, like the one growing in the Rose Garden here in Golcar, these seed heads stand rigidly upright and erect covered in crimson hairs. They last throughout the winter months before turning to dark brown in colour.

The Rhus typhina is a small tree with many truly unique qualities.

Rhus typhina ‘Stag’s Horn Sumach’

Rhus typhina close-up

The lavender-blue scented blooms of Verbena bonariensis have been in flower since June, acting as a soft companion to the ‘old’ roses. It is a very accommodating plant and, because of its open, wiry habit (and despite of its height - reaching a heady 6 feet in its second year), when planted at the foot of a border, it volunteers a transparency through which one’s eye is drawn to the tantalising vistas of distant planting beyond. Although, now we are in October, the lavender colouring of its flowers is fading slightly, it still has much to contribute to the autumnal setting of the Rose Garden.

Verbena bonariensis – Stag’s Horn Sumach, with her array of sunset tints, provides a complimentary backdrop to the lavender-blue flowers of Verbena bonariensis

On a practical note, Verbena bonariensis is biannual in nature and therefore will die after the second year. So, it is good practice to plant a few plants in position every year, allowing for a perennial succession (even though it does seed freely on well-drained soil).

Pink Valeriana officinalis

Pink Valeriana officinalis, the common or cat’s valerian – so-called because our feline friends love it so much.

Moving from the Rose Garden, our White Garden also exudes autumnal delights throughout October.

A sea of tiny white aster mingles with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Siber Feder’, whose silver feathers gently float around in the gentle breeze. Through the ravages of winter winds and rain, it will very slowly and gradually get ripped and torn, but will look magical, all the same, when the silver hoar frost coats its feathers and its battered foliage.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Siber Feder’

The shimmering glamour of the White Garden at dusk continues well into October. Only nature’s frosts, when they descend, will rob her of it.

White form of Valeriana officinalis

The white form of Valeriana officinalis continues to perpetuate a ghostly effect in the nocturnal White Garden; as do the masses of white asters. Along with Miscanthus Sinensis ‘Silber Feder’ ‘Silver Feathers’ – one of the most superlative of all grasses and highly valued here in the White Garden – these graceful white treasures intensify this room’s eeriness at this time of year.

Asters massed with Miscanthus Sinensis

The roses continue to flower well. Rosa ‘Iceberg’ has offered us two stunning main flushes of bloom in early summer and again in late summer/autumn. Her only fault is a propensity to blackspot late in the season, despite a strict spraying regime every three weeks during late spring to summer. Deadheading almost daily allows for a continuity of bloom late into the season in this, the most hushed and ghostly of all the garden rooms.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Anabelle’ has graced the bust of Zeus since late summer. The rich, moist soil in the semi-shade suits her perfectly.

Hydrangea Anabelle

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