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On a Chalk Hillside November 2018

Berries, hips and haws

You saw the berries of the Guelder Rose already red in June this year in my piece last month, and I thought I would look at other berries, hips and haws that are in my garden.  I think of these as autumn colours, but some appear earlier than that, even in years without a drought or heatwave to extra stress the plants, though they don’t usually become noticeable until autumn when there is less colour around them.  A case in point are the hips of my Rosa Glauca which appear in June.   As you would expect with a rose with grey leaves, the hips that come after the beautiful single deep pink flowers are purplish-grey:-

By the early September this year, they had turned a deep red:-

Not quite the same shape as the hips of the Rosa Canina that I showed you flowering through the Hawthorn in last month’s piece which looked like this in October 17:-

As you can see, the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) has already lost its haws, and many leaves by October.  This year, this tree had very few haws, and they had almost completely vanished by the beginning of September.  A younger tree near the bottom of the garden had more haws still by mid-September, but I don’t think it has been a very heavy haw year round here.

Rosa rugosa ‘Rubra’ and Rosa ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ also a rugosa type have similar-shaped large hips the first of which appear in July – the first picture is Rosa Rugosa ‘Rubra’ in September this year:-

And Rosa 'Roseraie de l’Hay' here also from mid-September:-

Note the lovely healthy foliage which also looks good into later autumn on the latter.
Completing the rose hips selection from late September are these:-

Which seem to get more orange each time I walk past, even now in November, and are (no surprise given the fuzz) from a moss rose - Rosa ‘William Lobb’.  This had a great flowering year this year, giving me lots of hips to admire, but also showing that unlike other years I didn’t prune it back after flowering.  I have to admit that this year the drought and heatwave didn’t just play havoc with my garden, it sapped my enthusiasm and much has been just left to get on with it since the second half of July.  We only water the vegetables, pots and greenhouse/polytunnel, which has taken us a couple of hours each day, and the rest of the garden gets no water at all.  (The pond has had to be topped up a few times).  As I’ve intimated in previous posts, things either stopped growing very early (like the grass which had still not recovered enough to be cut by late-September) or came early, smaller, flowered and died back quicker.  Unlike other parts of the country, we had no rain in August either, with heat continuing throughout, until the August bank holiday Sunday when we had rain for part of the day.  September, whilst no longer a heatwave continued dry until the weekend after Storm Bronagh, so hoped for second flushes from e.g. geraniums haven’t happened.  
Plants that have not done well this year compared to other years are some of the honeysuckles.  The main stalwart in my garden is the Lonicera peryclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ none of which specimens really flowered at all – they aren’t dead, the leaves are still green, but it didn’t flower.  The later flowering honeysuckle Lonicera peryclymenum ‘Serotina’ actually flowered early, desultorily, and quickly.  The berries hung about til the beginning of September as below, picked out with the Hedera Helix foliage in its tree form behind it, but had withered by a week later:-

However, if berries are anything to go by, the Lonicera peryclymenum ‘Scentsation’ did flower well this year:-

And as you can see from the close up below, were still looking impressive mid-September:-

And clearly the foliage is in a better condition, and ‘Scentsation’ has a different colour berry to that of Lonicera periclymenum ‘Sweet Sue’, picture taken the same day:-

We have a lot of Lords and Ladies throughout the garden, and Arum maculatum still had a few red berries throughout September.  The Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’ that I planted in my tiny winter bed I wrote about several months ago had berries into October (though I did harvest them to sow in a seedtray to see if I could grow new plants with the same wonderful leaf markings) :-

Though I struggled to find any berries on the Yew (Taxus baccata) to show you this year:-

Turning away from reddish berries now, the Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria Formosa) by the polytunnel still looked handsome with its axilliary racemes of red/purple bracts and deep purple berries through September and October and is still colourful now in November:-

This year, our Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea’ didn’t produce any white berries, but here is a picture of them from September last year:-

Moving on to black berries in the garden, the most obvious ones through the autumn and winter are on my mature ‘tree form’ of Hedera Helix – here in January this year, still covered in berries:-

Another heavy cropper of black berries in this garden (but not this year), is the Berberis darwinii – here in full berry in June last year:-

These are so loved by the blackbirds they rarely survive past early July – I managed to catch a snap of a berry thief through glass on 9 July 16:-

You may be wondering why it has been taking us so long to do the watering if you recall the picture I showed you a long while back of our vegetable patch by the polytunnel.   The short answer is that our vegetable patch is much expanded from that.  Our neighbours offered us the use of the bottom of their garden for growing vegetables in early 2009, and we jumped at the chance.  We had been struggling to find space to expand our patch to grow enough to keep us during the whole year, and their garden was almost double the width of ours (16.76m).  The area in question, which was everything from their pigeon lofts to the bottom of their garden measured over 53m in length, and had been laid to grass by them.  Their previous gardener had a sit on mower to mow this, but had stopped being able to do it.  Our rent for the use of the bottom part to grow vegetables was to keep the area up to the pigeon lofts mowed.  
We hired a turf stripper to create vegetable beds, but quickly discovered it didn’t work on bumpy slopes, and ended up cutting four beds each approximately 6m x 3.65m out of the grass by hand and making a turf stack that looked like a long barrow.  We then had to dig over the compacted soil and try and remove the larger stones and flints, and the dandelion roots in it – less successfully in some areas than others.  As I said last month, the soil in our orchard (which is adjacent to this space) is very poor and thin on the chalk, and their garden was no different, so we had to enrich the soil with manure.  We found a riding stables in a village about 10 miles away and spent several days driving back and forth digging manure out of their (very mature) manure pile into sacks to fill the car with, and then barrowing them down all 91.5m of the garden to dump them onto the beds where I emptied them and spread out the contents to a depth of 10cm, taking the empty sacks back up to the car and repeating. Several tons were moved in this way.  We were fortunate it was such mature manure that we could then dig into the soil and plant into straight away.  In future years we would go and get manure around November to put on the beds which didn’t have winter vegetables on for the worms to pull into the soil over winter, the crop rotation ensuring that all beds would be manured regularly.  You can certainly tell the difference between the soil in the cultivated beds which have all the added organic matter in them and the “natural” when we cut a new bed for something.  As we expanded our operation down there, we cut out two more big beds and then four beds which were narrower for soft fruit and herbs.   So you can see it takes some watering in the drought and heatwave!  
Finally, a couple of images of actual blackberries in my garden – one from October last year showing a 22 spot ladybird on the berry:-

This October we have been inundated with ladybirds – in all the mild sunny weather in the first half of the month we kept being covered with them landing on us as we worked in the garden.  The air was filled with them flying, so that you had to be careful not to swallow one if you were walking and talking!  Even on 5th November they are still flying in numbers and landing on you unexpectedly.
The other blackberry picture is a fun horticultural conundrum - how can this hawthorn have black berries? :-

Next time, creating a bog garden.

Sheila May

Posted by Sheila May

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