As September arrived, the intensity of the colours in the borders has deepened, and they could almost be likened to some glorious head of hair, so lush and rich! They are heavy with green foliage and full on with vibrant colour.

This year, we have been trialling plants in new combinations and repositioning existing ones in the borders.  Our introduction of warm and even hot colours into the Rectory Border is giving us an exciting show that will roll on into the autumn.

To compliment our favourite Rosa ‘Burgundy Ice’, we have added Lysimachia atropurpurea  ‘Beaujolais’, Salvia ‘Dysons Crimson’, Salvia grahamii and Helenium ‘Sahins Early’. Then, having grown them from seed, we threw Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cappucino’ and ‘Cherry Brandy’ into the mix, added a few Dahlias, and the effect is stunning!

A sprinkling of Cosmos in stronger colours, including Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Rubenza’ and ‘Click Cranberry’, in amongst Malva sylvestris ‘Windsor Castle’, has added specks of richness to a few of those darker green areas, particularly to the side of the Peony Walk, where a mix of Lycianthes rantonnetii, Salvia ‘Amistad’, Caryopteris x clandonensis and Cosmos ‘ Click Cranberry’ are looking especially good.

Head Gardener Ben has been busy cutting the hedges and reshaping the evergreen shrubs at the back of the Rectory border. What a difference this has made! It has given greater depth to the border and a correct sense of space to it too. In turn, this has opened up exciting planting opportunities and we are making plans to complete this project during the winter.

The giant Salvia involucrata, running along either side of the front of the house, has handled well being left out over the winter – though it does need some heavy mulching to protect it from frost. In fact, we think that those ones which were lifted haven’t done as well as those we left! They are a wonderful autumn plant, statuesque and graceful, towering over the foliage of roses that have long since bloomed. In that border, we have even had a second flowering of our Romneya coulteri, and the four columns of our Clematis x durandii are still sending out fine purple flowers. This is a group 3 Clematis so needs a hard prune in late winter or early spring.

It seems almost too soon that we are beginning to think about cutting back and even taking inside some of the more tender plants with the sudden drop in night-time temperatures

So it is, that the life of plants and trees will ebb and flow within a garden. Very sadly, we have to report that the beautiful and serene Ulmus ‘Jacqueline Hillier’ arching over the Peony bed and a winding path into the garden, has died this summer. Ben has said that this is due to age and disease, and certainly the bark shows a white fungus beneath it. She has been a wonderful and unusual member of the rarer trees ‘family’ here in The Old Rectory Gardens and will be greatly missed. A new planting opportunity awaits now!

Trees are very much on our mind here and we did a lot of tree work in our first year, especially reducing the canopy of two of our magnificent False Acacias. Our veteran specimen, which is about 200-250 years old, continues to worry us. It is a question of nurturing the old lady again this autumn and we will have to reduce further her more unstable branches, so she can fight on – which she is doing very well! Every day her incredible gnarled bark never ceases to fascinate us; like an old elephant’s skin, it is full of a life well lived and a catalogue of seasons thrown at it. What stories she could tell!

The Potager is also showing its autumn silhouette. Artichokes have flowered again, hot Salvia grahamii, warm Rudbeckia ‘Cappuccino’ with pale blue Silene ‘Blue Angel’ and trailing silver Lotus berthelotii   are still complimenting the vast terracotta  pots, whilst Amaranthus and Beetroot leaves amongst the salad crop foliage offer a bold contrast in strong colours. The woody stems of many of the vegetables have been left in place to await the first frosts and become reborn as icy structures of interest.

Apple trees have had their late summer pruning and we have held a successful first Masterclass here within the gardens in conjunction with this work, with Head Gardener Ben giving a demonstration of correct pruning and training methods at this time of year. More Masterclasses are planned to relate to the seasons and with only a small number of students, 10 in each class, these will offer an intense and valuable experience with plenty of opportunities to watch a professional gardener at work, learn first hand about the horticultural methods and principles involved and have the chance to discuss any issues relating to your own horticultural experience and gardens.

Our next Masterclass on Propagation is to be held on Wednesday 4th October, an afternoon session, or Saturday 7th October, a morning session and will include demonstrations on how to take semi-ripe and hardwood cuttings of shrubs, root cuttings of perennials and how to divide perennials to increase plant numbers and maintain plant health. Students will have the opportunity to practice these plant propagation methods under supervision – and then take home the results!

We still have a few spaces left and booking here

Or by calling 01832 734085

Meanwhile the dogs are helping us collect our autumn produce and we are enjoying the fruits of a summer’s labour!