September has danced past like a dream, and here we are creeping into October already.

Early October sunshine

It was a mostly dry month, the lovely low light of autumn illuminating the garden on clear mornings, while the valleys have often woken swathed in autumn mists which dissolve as the sun rises higher up the sky. The speed with which dawn grows later and later always surprises me at this time of year, as does the quantity of spiders draping their webs across the garden or appearing in the house.

Pennisetum villosum, Gaura lindheimeri and Verbena bonariensis

I am currently rather captivated by the combination of Pennisetum villosum, Gaura lindheimeri and Verbena bonariensis which weave together in a wild tangle in the long border against the tawnier foliage of Anemanthele lessoniana which forms a fountain in the background.

Miscanthus sinensis Undine

Miscanthus sinensis Undine

Ornamental grasses are the stars of the show at this time of year; particular favourites are the wonderful burgundy flowerheads of Miscanthus sinensis Undine (whose narrow pin-striped leaves are equally attractive).

Miscanthus sinensis Undine

Miscanthus sinensis Undine flowerheads

The delicate flowerheads of Panicum virgatum ( grown from seeds marked ‘Shenandoah’ though I rather think they don’t come true) are equally compelling, and the strappy foliage of one of our plants is now turning a vibrant yellow.

Panicum virgatum flowers

Panicum virgatum foliage turning golden yellow

Seedheads play a prominent role in the garden at this time of year too, even while the asters and dahlias around them continue to blaze in fierier colours, and I rather like this tableau of seedheads of Ammi majus and Dierama, accompanied by still-blooming Verbena bonariensis, which continues to draw in bees and butterflies across the garden in the warm sunshine.

Ammi majus seedheads and Verbena bonariensis


Small tortoiseshell butterfly on Verbena bonariensis flowers

I am quietly pleased that this year I finally remembered to ‘Chelsea-chop’ the sedums, so that they are now blooming in tidy mounds instead of sprawling drunkenly through the borders.

Part of long border, with Chelsea-chopped sedum flowering

The only sedums I left un-chopped were Purple Emperor, which I only acquired in late Spring, and one of the Sedum spectabile clumps that I optimistically poked in among the gnarled roots at the feet of our birch tree, trusting that the challenging conditions here would be sufficient to prevent it growing too lax. It seems to have worked so far; though it produced larger flowerheads earlier, that have now darkened to a deeper colour, they are not too untidy but stand tall. I like the contrast in colour of these flowerheads with the rich colours of the foliage and stems of purple loosestrife, Lythrum virgatum, which always puts on a glorious autumn display as it dies back.

Sedum spectabile and autumn foliage of Lythrum virgatum

September saw the harvesting of our shallots and onions, whose foliage is always decimated here by slugs and snails so that there is nothing to plait for storage! For the first time I grew the shallots, variety Zebrune, from seed this year, starting them in seed trays in the greenhouse in the spring, then transplanting them into the garden once they were growing strongly. I have never had much luck direct-sowing onions in the garden, but this method worked well for us for the shallots this year, and I hope to repeat it next spring. Each seed yields a single shallot, rather than the clumps that are produced from sets, but this suits us well and there are some huge bulbs – much easier to prepare in the kitchen!

Shallot and onion harvest

Shallot grown from seed

In the past couple of weeks, we have also harvested the first few winter squash, two Crown Prince and two Turks Turban, whose vines were beginning to die back already, while the rest  of our crop continue to ripen in the autumn sunshine for picking later in the month.

First winter squash harvests of the year

Crown Prince squash growing

We’ve continued to harvest tomatoes from the greenhouse too, many processed and stored in the freezer, while a bunch of green fruit that accidentally came off were made into a modest batch of green tomato chutney from a Nigel Slater recipe, to fill three kilner jars.

Green tomato chutney

While the garden continues to draw the mantle of autumn around its shoulders, our attention is focussing closer to home now in anticipation of our imminent new arrival: this truly is a season of change!


18 thoughts on “Tawny

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post and looking at your pics, thank you for sharing. October is an interesting month in the garden. Wishing you all the best on your imminent arrival.

    • Thank you, Ronnie. I’ve been a rather sporadic blogger of late! I do like this time of year, and the usual slight sense of melancholy that accompanies the fading of the seasons is offset by excitement this year 😀 Hope that all is well with you.

  2. It really is the season for grasses, isn’t it, I like the look of Undine, and how come your stipa tenuissima stands nicely upright whilst mine just sprawl?! I’m going to be making chutney soon too, and although I didn’t sow shallots this year, I will do it again next year, they do turn out rather well don’t they. Provided I protect them from the blackbirds!! All the best for your imminent new arrival, I hope you are blessed with a baby that loves to sleep at night. Very exciting tines for you both.

    • Every year I want to add more and more grasses – I’m loving Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’ this year too, which is in its second year here and just starting to bulk up a little, though I’m wondering whether I need to move it forward a little… I’m not sure how our stipa manage to stand so upright, particularly as the cat likes to wrap herself around them and peddle them with her feet when she gets the wind up her!
      We’re really excited, playing the waiting game now! x

  3. I have made a note of your grasses as they are something I have neglected in my own garden but have seen from others’ blogs just how useful they are. Best wishes for your imminent arrival and I trust everything will go well for you all 🙂

    • Thanks Cathy. I love our grasses, could just keep adding more and more. Highly recommend Molinia caerulea Transparent and Calamagrostis Karl Foerster too!

  4. Oh those fluffy heads of pennisetum villosum are just magical Sara – so soothing to look at and no doubt to stroke too. I’m not surprised that you are captivated. This year my anemanthele lessoniana has given me much pleasure. Hope that all goes well with the arrival of your babe. Enjoy the anticipation and do keep us posted. Take care xxx

    • Must confess I do quite often stroke the fluffy pennisetum heads as I pass! I’m pleased that they have overwintered here a couple of years too as I worried they would grumble at our heavy soil. Thanks for your well wishes!

  5. Grass heads do look superb at this time of year though I’m annoyed that you remembered to chop your sedums when I kept on putting mine off until it was too late. I’d missed news of your new arrival – congratulations! All the best, Dave

    • Ah I am allowed to be a little smug at chopping back the sedums as they were such a mess last year!! Still awaiting our arrival-to-be at the moment, hopefully that will change sooner rather than later – and I can bend in the garden again 🙂 !!

  6. This was the first year I remembered the Chelsea chop. I did notice it delayed flowering quite a bit on mine and one sedum didn’t seem to take too kindly to it and spent the rest of the summer looking quite forlorn. But they haven’t flopped so I’ll definitely do it again. Your garden looks so beautiful. Good luck with the new arrival. x

    • Thank you! The downside to the chelsea chop on the sedums was losing that lovely mound of foliage that forms before they get lanky – ours looked a bit sorry for themselves instead then too – but so much neater and non-floppy later in the season than usual, so I’ll do it again too! x

  7. you have some lovely grasses Sara, your garden looks nice in it’s autumn colours, a nice crop of shallots too, I grew some of my onions from seed this year in a similar way to you (substitute windowsill for green house), I’m pleased with them though they are not as large a those grown from sets, I must try the chelsea chop on one of my sedums as it sprawls terribly,
    if the sleepless nights are not with you yet make the most of the few long nights you have left, Frances x

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