As the main visitor season comes to a close at Haddon Hall and the gardens become quiet, the whole atmosphere changes.
The last colour of the season fades from the borders and the unmistakeable shades of autumn can be seen all around us in the wonderful variety of trees that extend the vista beyond the stone terraces and managed gardens of Haddon Hall into the very beautiful wild Derbyshire countryside beyond.
The topiary trees at Haddon Hall of copper beech and Hornbeam that line the wildflower border are mottled yellow and orange as they catch the autumn sun, which at this time of year shines directly through the chapel, illuminating the ancient stained glass window just before it sets – by chance or by design, who can say? The Hall keeps its secrets very close to its stony heart.
Meanwhile, the borders have mostly succumbed to busy secateurs, resulting in a very full compost heap.
Before the cutting down began in earnest, we decided to take photographs just to remind us how the beds looked and of which plants may need moving or splitting, as it’s easy to lose track once they have been reduced to clumps of six-inch stalks.
We also decided to write names on plastic plant labels and pushed them into the soil as a further safeguard, whilst it was all still fresh in the memory.
The hall at Haddon keeps its secrets very close to its stony heart
The Dahlias, which have done so well for us this year, have now been lifted prior to storage after the first touch of frost scorched their leaves. We also grow climbing roses in the mixed borders, which scramble over willow tripods, sometimes combined with clematis. The roses are prone to being swamped by some of the taller and more vigorous perennials, so now is a good time dig out bullying neighbours to leave sufficient space around them, allowing light to get through and air to circulate. Pruning and tieing in the wall roses for which Haddon is justly renowned, is one of the main jobs at the moment. There are in excess of 50, ranging from small ones on the low walls to some which require the use of a double ladder, not to mention a good head for heights! All the dead wood is cut out and healthy new growth is tied in. This can be quite therapeutic work; pleasing to do as long as the weather is kind.
The great thing about gardening is that it’s all about looking forward. Even in November at the very end of the gardening season, when all is brown and spent, the promise of spring and that first fresh green growth is already in our minds.