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The Endsleigh Gardener: Autumn Leaves by Ben Ruscombe-King (October 2018)

Autumn is always the most atmospheric season here at Endsleigh but I have a feeling this year is going to be better than most, as all the autumn colour seems to be happening at once. Acers, Persian Ironwood, Tulip trees, Gingkos, Swamp cypress, Liquidambar, deciduous Azaleas, Aralias, Enkianthus, Fothergilla, Witchhazel, are all glowing with their autumnal colour and when the low autumn sun shines through the trees the whole garden blazes.

Haws, hips and berries abound this year. Hollies, Viburnums, Hawthorn and Euonymus limbs hang low under the weight of berries. Fir trees are thick with cones and acorns cover the ancient Oaks and the floor beneath them making some of the paths treacherous. Folklore would have us believe that this is a warning of a harsh winter to come but may just be the bounty of the long hot summer.

The long border is still looking good and will be flowering until the first frosts: the colours are a little more muted than that of high summer but none the worse for that, this is the time after all for the trees to have their place in the spotlight. The blues and purples of asters, perovskia, ceratostigma, verbena and salvia are set off by the burgundy sedum and ruddy pink persicarias, with the arching, hip tipped rose branches adding to the autumnal scene and reminding us of the glories of the summer now gone.

The leaves falling from the trees throw up a sweet smell of burnt sugar and mixed with wood smoke the scent hangs heavy in the air, leaves crunch underfoot and the thud of wood being chopped echoes across the valley. Autumn mists swirl around the dell- lurking amongst the garden ruins and hidden by the mist- one feels the ghosts of the past. The gardeners who once tended this β€˜sequestered valley’, the houseguests who cavorted in the grottoes and follies are all somehow palpable yet just out of reach in the brume. Paths lead off into the woods and offer tantalising opportunities for further discovery: a mysterious tunnel here, a hidden waterfall there. The Duchess’s dairy framed perfectly across the valley could be an illustration from Grimm’s fairytales the waterfall opposite from a painting by Claude Lorraine.

Having explored the gardens and successfully navigated yourself back to the hotel what better way to recover than by retiring to the drawing room for afternoon tea by the log fire and perhaps pick up a book from the library to get to know the ghosts, you have just fleetingly met, a little better.