This month marks the final blaze of autumn colour and interest in the grass and herbaceous borders. Colourful leaves give way to berries and indoor displays.
Begin in the front entrance where there is a fine display of cascade chrysanthemums (1). These are painstakingly trained along descending canes through the summer to grow down – against their natural inclination! Enjoy the heat of the tropical house, remembering to look up for flowers as well as down for fish. In the sub-tropical house is one of the gardens star plants in full flower. The impossibly named Megaskapasma erythrochlamys (2) bears a mass of dramatic lipstick red bracts, which hopefully remind you of warmer days and exotic beach holidays! Turn right onto the terrace, just before the parrot cages is a shrub with jewel-like pink and metallic blue fruits (Clerodendrum trichotomum) (3). Turn left and walk down the main pinetum path, take the sleeper steps down to the right. At the foot of these steps is the beauty berry (Callicarpa bodinieri) (4), well named for its clusters of purple fruits. Retrace your steps to the tarmac path and turn right. A little down the hill on your right is the sinister blue fruits of the ‘dead men’s fingers’. This macabre named Chinese plant (Decaisnea fargesii) (5) produces eye-catching squishy blue pods with edible flesh inside! On the main lawn opposite is an isolated conifer – the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) (6). The leaves turn a deep bronze before falling, why not walk over and examine its fluted red trunk? Walk down past the fountain and onto Paxton Prospect, you will pass the Acer display on your right, where the paper bark maple should be looking at its best. Opposite will be a display of dazzling pink bulbs from South Africa – Nerine bowdenii (7). A final reminder of autumn glory is the tall narrow tree at the foot of the American bank (Liquidambar styraciflua) (8). Proceed to the Wilson walk for a closer look at its leaves and return to the terrace via the woodland walk, where you can return to childhood by kicking through some fallen leaves. Ask for this walk round leaflet at reception.
Coming next month – indoor flowers for Christmas and early winter flowering shrubs outside.