The Wood of Goodwill lies beyond the Monks’ Garden and Wild Flower Meadow on relatively flat ground and is one of Geordie and my projects. Once we had decided where it was going to be planted, the question was where to start. The answer came from that wonderful piece of music, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. We began with the trees and formulated a planting scheme which highlighted spring blossoms and bulbs towards the eastern side; with philadelphus taking the planting towards summer along with hibiscus, buddleias, cornus kousa, rock roses and hydrangeas; a different focus of shrubs for Autumn and thence down a gentle slope to the Six Sisters Walnut walk with its hints of winter.
At this time of year, it is the autumn planting that comes into its own. Some of the leaves have already fallen this year, conserving what resources they could after such a very hot summer. Others, however, have swiftly turned every shade of red and ochre, yellow and amber, golden yellows, evening sun lights, the russet tones shaded with touches of pinks and greys or fiery scarlets.
As usual, many of my planting schemes are based around people or bright ideas. I can remember my father-in-law happily showing me some Parrotica Persicaria he had planted, so I bought five of them as one of my first groups. It has taken them some time to get going but they seem happy now. Nearby is a fabulous autumn coloured Malus – a tree given to me by some friends whom I met at Eddie’s nursery school, whilst the adjacent one I gave myself as I like it so much at this time of year: a Liquidambar.
There is now a path winding through this planting “block”, lined with euonymus alatus which were planted three years ago. I have been anxiously watching them as they never seemed to grow any bigger but, thank goodness, they seem to have got my message and are beginning to get some shape.
My mother-in-law was from Wyoming and I often think of our visits there in the autumn: the smoke bushes remind me of the colours around her beloved home. Feeling like a child, I cannot help but carefully run my hand along the branch of a Stag’s head (Rhus) which have fewer leaves this year, probably due to the August heat, but which are so wonderfully velvety to the touch.
Viburnums and cornus do so well in this chalky ground and offer colour but some are also grown to block views: to make you turn a corner and find a new route or vista.
Scattered throughout are trees for autumn colour: the smart columnar shape of a yellow Dawyck’s Beech, a maple planted for Pat and Mike Withers, another in memory of Stan Anstey, a bricky. There is a long way to go but that is also rather fun. I walk round in circles (plus ca change) deciding which plants to buy and plant in the coming weeks.
Planting at this time of year helps shrubs and trees to establish healthy roots well that will run down deep into soil still warm from the summer. With little top growth to support, plants can concentrate their energy on reaching their roots down and out, creating a network that will sustain them for a lifetime.
“Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning