Autumn colour and calm in the gardens

Kate Robinson, Head Gardener at the Charterhouse, takes a mellow look at what’s happening in the gardens this autumn.

As the days get shorter, the sun gets lower and the gardens start to wind down for the winter I’ve been taking stock of a beautiful year in the gardens of the Charterhouse.

There is still plenty to see and do as the weather is still so mild and the low autumn light gives a new quality to the colours of the garden. There are purple asters mixing with white Japanese anemones, gorgeous dark purple salvias against tall willowy grasses and the rich reds and oranges of the dahlias. Constant dead heading keeps the flowers going, especially on the roses which have been putting on an amazing show since June.

This is great time in the garden to lift and divide perennials and plant new ones as the soil is still warm and they will have time to get their roots established before their growth spurt in the spring. So I will be starting to move things around, such as a lovely large clump of white phlox and the self-seeded sisyrinchiums and lychnis. Which is where our gardeners’ journal, with plenty of notes and photographs from earlier in the year, come in handy as I can look back and remember the gaps I need to fill and colour combinations I want to replicate.

My bulb order arrived at the end of September and I will have fun over the next couple of months planting out thousands of tulips and daffodils. Not to mention all the fritillarias, Camassias and bluebells I have planned for the meadow in Charterhouse Square. We have been preparing it by cutting down the grass and wildflowers and we will be clearing some areas back to bare soil where the grass has become a little thuggish, so we can re-seed with yellow rattle (which suppresses the grass) and a native wildflower mix, so hopefully we should have a better display than ever next year.

There was some sad news for the gardens as one of our lovely gardeners Ludovik decided it was time to leave us after 6 years of dedication. He helped Claire create the gardens as they are today and was invaluable in helping me settle in and get to grips with this hidden gem over the last year. He is very fittingly moving to Kent, the garden of England, and we wish him all the best in his gardening future. So I have new staff and new ideas in Jo who has worked at the National Trust’s Standen in Sussex, and Winterborne which is part of the Birmingham botanical gardens. It is exciting to have a fresh perspective and someone new to bounce ideas off.

Although Autumn means two months of collecting leaves and planting bulbs, which sometimes feels a bit of a never-ending task, I have also been preparing for the Christmas Fair on November 12th. With the help of my volunteers I will be decorating the Charterhouse with greenery and running a stall selling dried flower wreaths. We have been collecting and drying bits and pieces harvested from the gardens and it has been interesting seeing what works and what doesn’t. I am also preparing for my wreath making workshops on the 7th and 12th of December and with Christmas is just around the corner and I am hoping for some beautiful crisp mornings to enjoy in the gardens.

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