Despite the fact that I cannot remember the last day that we didn't have at least some rain, the gardens here at Harlow Carr are looking very good, in particular the main borders. They were designed to have year round interest but to look at their very best from late summer and autumn, and they are doing just that. The Heleniums have been particularly good this year.
Unfortunately there is no denying that the feel of Autumn is defiantly in the air now, the mornings and evenings have that chilly bite and in the gardens true autumnal signs can be seen, the lovely autumn flowering Cyclamen hederifolium has been out for a couple of weeks now and the magnificent vibrant tints of the Vitis coignetiae are already on display.
This last week has been rather a busy one. The taming of the hedges has begun, across the site. We have several different types of hedges they include the infamous Leylandii which many people now dislike, but if maintained properly dose make a very good dense hedge, Beech which holds on to its lovely rusty foliage all winter long, Hornbeam, which can tolerate wetter conditions and also retains its dried leaves, Yew the classic favourite, Berberis which is a wonderful defender from intruders and finally Hawthorn which provides a wonderful habitat for wildlife with its nectar rich flowers in the spring followed by its red berries in the autumn. The hedge cutting generally takes a couple of weeks from start to finish, staff members always work in twos for safety reasons, on a rotational basis allowing for all staff to do their share, in a sweep across the gardens. The trimming is carried out from this time as most growth will have finished by now ensuring a fresh sharp edged hedge until next season. The timing also allows for this years the new students that have started this week to have their first master-class.
Earlier this week we also started on the meadow cutting. Over the last couple of years a few more areas of the garden have been dedicated to establishing meadows with bulbs and wildflowers this not only extends the wide scope of interest in the gardens, but also greatly increases the wildlife habitats across the site. The meadows are cut using a fantastic machine called a Tracmaster scythe which has reciprocating blades which shear off all the growth to within three or four centimetres of the ground. Traditionally in dryer years the hay would be left to dry out and disperse any seeds of the wild flowers before collection. This will still be the case in the wildflower arboretum which has not yet been cut, but in the more ornamental areas we have collected the clippings as they are two wet for the seed to disperse. To collect we firstly raked the clippings in to what's called windrows this is a traditional method used to aid in the drying and curing of the hay, it also makes it easier for collection enabling a tractor and trailer to travel between the rows and for people to collect from both sides. On the larger areas a bailing machine will be brought in to bail the hay, we will then be able to easily collect.
And finally this week the woodland team have been working hard to make the necessary changes to the old sandstone rock garden ready for reopening in the following weeks. Many of you may be aware that the sandstone rock garden has been shut for several years now due to the infestation of Equisetum arvense commonly known as Horsetail, and also due to the fact that many areas of the garden over the last few years have been under development and so taking priority over this area. Yesterday all staff carried out a team hit clearing the overgrown pathways and streams that flow through this area, today path surfaces are being resurfaced ready for reopening hopefully next week. Some of the larger areas infected with the horsetail have been levelled and will be sown down to grass in the coming weeks when the conditions are right, this should allow for mush easier maintenance and control of the problem.