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Curator knows the value of autumn colour after summer's bubble bursts

By Herald Express  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

  • COLOURFUL: Above, clever design and bursts of colour makes for a beautiful autumnal display in Lady Anne's garden at RHS Rosemoor; left, Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii make a stunning winter display; above left, Acer palmatum var. dissectum at the stone garden

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A FELLOW gardener told me that autumn is her favourite time of year.

She said though it may sound strange, it's because you somehow feel closer to nature than at any other time of year.

It's true that the leaves are literally blowing all around you, the wet comes through the soles of your shoes, you can smell the cool decay, you can hear it in the gentle patter of rain.

When seasonal bustle is over, the autumn quiet is punctured only by the fire in the leaves.

This is reason enough to get outdoors again.

John Webster, curator at RHS Rosemoor keeps the garden open all year round.

He knows the value of autumn colour when the summer bubble bursts.

Right now, the 65-acre garden nestled in a wooded valley at Great Torrington is studded with bright reds, oranges and curd coloured leaves.

The vibrancy of the liquidambers, acers and cornus is doubled by their lakeside planting.

And there are bright hips and berries, sedums and nerines nestled here and there.

John said the key to year round interest is to create rooms that shine at different times of year.

And so the Winter garden is beginning to come into its own.

Here fragrant mahonia x media create a backdrop to fired stems of cornus alba.

And an enigmatic group of white-stemmed birches (Betula utilis jacquemontii) create a stately feature.

The delicacy of the trunks (kept bright with a weekly wash) contrast so well with the density of the conifers and topiarised evergreens.

"The key in any garden is structure. It holds the planting together," John says as we walk along the long borders.

The perennials still lend colour but they are stumbling now. It is the sentry-like yew columns that continue to create a rhythm along the walk.

There are 24 staff and 50 volunteers that work in the garden year-round.

It means that the garden is continually renewed.

"We call it editing," John said.

"It is hard sometimes to make a decision to remove a plant or tree that has become a dear friend.

"But it may have outgrown the space and is disturbing the overall scale and balance.

"It's funny, but when it comes out, you find that you don't miss it and it makes way for new opportunities."

Rosemoor's vegetable garden is ever changing.

The garden, circled by the productive orchard and espaliered apple trees, is bright with harvested pumpkins and squashes.

Gourds continue to hang from an archway and in the rustic shelter.

The greenhouses still host ripening tomatoes and chillis alongside winter lettuces.

Outside, winter mustards are growing strongly with enigmatic names like 'green in snow'.

When productivity slows, winter becomes the ideal time to get on with projects.

Included in the schedule are plans to re-design the Mediterranean garden.

John said: "The next six months are really about getting on with general tidying jobs and projects.

"Every gardener knows that if you get behind with these jobs then you are behind all year."

From this week, experts at the RHS will be providing the weekly hints and tips column on the page.

Their gardening guide will ensure that you can keep on top of the jobs to do every week.

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