October’s Water Garden
With the onset of winter and an end to those lazy sunny summer days, October can be seen as a miserable month with excessive rainfall, early frosts and grey clouds, but on a bright sunny autumn day, nature can still put on a magnificent display of colours.
Colour and Beauty
Our water gardens are also a place of serenity and beauty at this time of year too. So, before you cut back and tidy up that old plant growth for the winter, take in another side of nature in its true beauty. Rushes, aquatic and non aquatic grasses display their seed pods and capsules in the early morning frost, and Bulrushes look fantastic on a bright frosty morning as they dance back and forth on a light fresh breeze, the dew twinkling like diamonds as it falls from their long, graceful stems. There are lots of other amazing plants that look their best and that are in full flower this time of year. Hesperantha formerly known as ‘Schizostylis,’ is a stunning bog-garden plant, with its Iris-looking leaves and stunning brightly coloured petals, this mystical plant will definitely bring your pond to life in the autumn months. Hesperantha comes in numerous shades of red, pink and white and will grace any pond lucky enough to have them in. Another plant which is also at its best this time of year is Apponogeton Distachyos common name ‘Water Hawthorne’. This aquatic plant produces a mass of bright green, long, oval floating leaves and produces an abundance of exquisite vanilla scented flowers. Water Hawthorne doesn’t like the summer months and saves its croscendo of beauty for when the water cools down in the autumn months. In my opinion, the Water Hawthorne looks at its very best in September and October. One more plant that I must mention is Baumea Rubiginosa Variegata. This semi evergreen Rush it seems, is a much underrated Rush. Baumea has bright, fresh lemon and lime variegated leaves and keeps its freshness all the way through autumn up until the first frosts of December or even through to January. This Rush is a hardy little chap and if we have a mild enough winter, Baumea will still look good all the way through into the spring.
At this time of year, it’s not just plants that are thinking of settling down for the winter but also Frogs, Toads, Newts, and Grass Snakes will all be preparing for hibernation to get them through the harshest of our winter months. The time when hibernation occurs is simply down to the weather and can take place anytime from mid-October to the end of November so, when cutting back old plant growth in Autumn, always be careful and on the lookout to avoid our amphibians that are still hopping about in the old summers growth looking for a place to nestle down into. You will also most likely also come across old nests that Voles have lovingly spent time constructing in the summer months amongst the grasses and Rushes near to the water’s edge. These inquisitive little animals are a joy and if you pick up an old nest, take time to look at its clever construction. This time of the year, Voles seek out warmer places to nest for the winter and these are usually deep down in underground burrows and tunnels close to tree roots where the earth is warmer. Voles by nature are not fussy either and will be just as happy nestling down in a burrow they have dug for themselves or that have been excavated by others. A word of caution, always check your bonfire area before lighting it as our lovely little Hedgehogs love to winter down underneath any old foliage where they feel safe and warm. If you are lucky enough, you may even spot a Kingfisher this time of year flitting backwards and forwards over a pond or stream on the lookout for small fish. Kingfishers can be hard to spot in the summer months against all the vibrancy of colour that summer brings, however, they are much easier to spot in the Autumn and Winter as their brightly coloured feathers stand out against the russet browns of winters start. So, if you are lucky enough to see a fast flash of bright blue and orange passing across the water’s surface, then it will probably be a Kingfisher and you are truly very lucky indeed.