Autumn began to creep in very early this year, there were Acers turning colour in August, the hawthorn hedges have been weighed down by berries for weeks and my favourite shrub in Monmouth has spent the whole of September and October looking absolutely spectacular.
If you’re passing Bridges Community Centre it’s worth a detour into the car park just to see the Cotinus, the translucent oval leaves are the colours of glowing embers, from gold and orange to scarlet, cerise and rich deep burgundy. The transformation from a dull shade of dark green began on one side and has gradually suffused the whole shrub until it’s become a flaming bonfire.
If you’re there on a sunny day have a wander into Drybridge park too where the rich butter yellow and ambers of the lime trees are perfect against a clear blue sky and the lonely Acer griseum, dwarfed by the big old trees makes up for its lack of stature with vivid vermillion leaves and ginger peeling bark.
It’s a great tree for autumn colour and for a small garden it’s pretty near perfect. Like Amelanchier lamarckii and Sorbus ‘Vilmorinii’ it’s small enough for most of us to accommodate and now is a good time to think about planting a new tree or three, the soil is still relatively warm and the roots will have the winter to settle in before the top growth gets underway again next spring.
November isn’t all horticultural fireworks though, it can be a melancholic time of year especially as the mists settle in along the Wye, but we gardeners are always looking forward and now is a brilliant time for making plans for next year whether just on paper as sketches and notes, or as I’ve done recently taking cuttings and collecting seed. I have to curb my enthusiasm for new plants at the moment as our house is up for sale and so I’m restricting purchases to bulbs for pots which is no bad thing for any of us to splash out on. They’ll be a welcome burst of colour next spring and can be chosen for placing in any aspect or in any colour scheme, from vivid orange and cerise tulips to clash violently in full sun to quiet and refined snowdrops and aconites placed with ferns in a shady corner.
They’re temporary flowers and fairly inexpensive to buy so we can have fun without the guilt of an expensive and embarrassingly permanent horticultural mistake. If orange and cerise become a bit much together they can be separated after flowering and planted at either ends of the garden to flower happily for years to come.
If we’re still here next spring, mine will make a great entrance either side the front door and if we’ve moved on, together with my cuttings from favourite shrubs and all those saved seeds, they’ll move house too and be the beginnings of a brand new garden.