The equinox has just passed and the days are beginning to shorten. Although the days are still lovely and warm, the mornings and evenings are becoming much cooler and we can really feel that we are entering autumn proper with the prospect of some stunning colour to come. The long, hot summer means that the autumn foliage should be especially good this year.
As the trees reduce their production of chlorophyll the chemicals responsible for the coloration of the leaves are left. These are carotenoids, which create the yellows and oranges and are present in the leaves during the summer but are masked by the green of the chlorophyll.
The other chemicals responsible for the autumn glory are the anthocyanins which form as the chlorophyll breaks down and produces glucose to create the wonderful shades of purple and red.
Autumn is also a great time for us to start working on some of our larger projects which will keep us busy throughout the winter and in readiness for our Centenary Year. With dry ground and warm weather it’s a perfect time to be getting on with ground work - these conditions make life easier for our gardeners and avoids damaging the soil structure through compaction.
One great example of a major project is our Iris Garden. As some visitors may have already noticed there has been a large hole in the ground just to the side of the main drive which was the remnants of the Iris Garden. With the Centenary looming we decided to take the opportunity to give this area a much needed facelift. The whole site was rife with perennial weeds. Soil has been removed along with the weeds, new beds have been created, paving stones re-laid, Rhododendron ponticum cleared and the whole area re-landscaped. During the last week the Gardeners have planted 45 different varieties of water loving Iris including cultivars of pallida, louisiana, sibirica and laevigata.
These plants have been a traditional favourite here at Exbury since the gardens’ inception. Lionel de Rothschild’s cousin Charles was a friend of, keen iris breeder and collector, William Dykes. Many plants were supplied and exchanged between gardeners over the years. Interestingly, an old map of the area shows the location of the Iris Garden was once a small quarry and that this area is not a natural depression in the ground as previously thought.
This year for the first time in many years, we have engaged contractors to mow and bale up the herbage of the Daffodil meadow.
This is in order to reduce the vigour of the grass and bracken and allow stress-tolerant plants (i.e. the wild flowers) to flourish and to improve the sward. The main benefit of this process is to reduce the nitrogen levels by removing the cut material so that it isn’t able to break down in situ which increases the nutrient levels. This will be an ongoing process and hopefully in years to come the meadow will go from strength to strength.
Here's a few of our favourite snaps of Exbury in Autumn: