Healthy plants for colour in November.

The onset of late autumn encourages us to look hard at the things in the gardens that are really earning their keep. Plants flowering or adding to the garden scene now tend to be extremely healthy and need very little care through the year. Here are some of the best plants in the gardens at Easton now.
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Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ with Rubus thibetanus ‘Silver Fern’ in the Velvet Border. ‘Grace’ is an exceptional smokebush cultivar for autumn colour.
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Colchicums in the Cedar Meadow. Although they are coming to the end of their flowering time and the slugs have had a little taste, these have been up for at least 3 weeks. This meadow is managed as a spring meadow and is mown from July onwards. When the temperature starts to drop, we stop mowing to prevent the heads of these lovely autumn bulbs from being decapitated.
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Perhaps not to everyone’s taste is Prunus laurocastus ‘Marbled White’ but to my mind, beautifully marked. For us, this is the perfect shrub, being totally hardy, disease free, offering something all year round, easy to grow and not attractive to our resident rabbit population. It is growing quite densely but I am hoping to remove the lower branches as it grows. This will allow light underneath and we can plant delicate woodland plants below.
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Rudbeckia triloba or Brown Eyed Susan. Technically a biennial this has flowered with us as a shortlived perennial. In flower for at least a month and totally unaffected by the frosts of the last couple of nights. This is still flowering in the long border with Aster turbellinus, see below.
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The last of our Asters to flower with a wiry but graceful habit, this perennial makes about 1 metre in our beds. The tiny buds  and airy foliage have been attractive for months but it’s lovely to see the flowers now.
If you would like to see these plants and great autumn colour, the gardens are open on Sundays in November for FREE!

March at Easton comes in like a lion….

Last week the winds picked up and typical March weather had arrived. Small bulbs were unaffected by it and made brave showings in the cedar meadow. Coming out now to join the crocuses are Chionodoxa in blues, pinks and white.
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New daffodils are showing through every day including the Tenby daffodil (Narcissus obvallaris) (below) and, on the snowdrop bank, an old survivor from pre-restoration, sometimes known as ‘Queen Anne’s Double’. The flowers are stuffed with petals that threaten to bring the whole stem down.
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On sunny days (like yesterday) we spot frogs  in the ditch below the snowdrop bank. The weather was so fine that they ignored us to enjoy the heat and were splashing and croaking in the puddles. The grey wagtail has returned to the river where we can watch his bobbing flight with ease.
The hellebores are at their best now. Most of our hellebores are in the woodland walk where they blend with hyacinths, dogs mercury and golden feverfew. An unusual combination of plants that is well worth seeing.
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The Giants of the Gardens

In our Cedar meadow, where the giraffes are now, we have four fine specimen conifers. Despite their size I think they were only planted in the nineteenth century.

Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as The Giant Sequoia or Wellingtonia arrived in Britain no earlier than 1847 and the Cedars possibly replaced some much larger specimens. In the 1880’s the winters here were so severe that the ancient trees were killed outright. I think the plants we see today are the successors.

only visible with a magnifying glass the
tips on these needles are translucent.

It has taken me sometime to identify the Cedars correctly as they are closely related to the better known Cedar of Lebanon. Thanks to Hugh Johnson’s book ‘Trees’ I finally got out there with a magnifying glass to spot the only sure difference: A tiny translucent tip on the end of the needles which requires very close inspection. Ours have this and therefore are definitely Atlas Cedars (C.atlantica).

We have two fine specimens of Sequoiadendron giganteum, Wellingtonia or Giant Sequoia but, up until now, no specimens of the even taller Sequoia sempervirens or Dawn Redwood. So I started at the bottom and grew this baby (below) from seed. We have two and they are now around 7′ tall. Draped in ghostly fleece all last winter they should now be strong enough to go it alone. You can see them near the carpark.

Sequoia sempervirens

I’m not alone in wanting to grow these magnificent trees from seed and this site provides some lovely anecdotal stories from around the world.