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Though we are some distance from winter, September always feels like the change of year in the garden. As the temperatures lower and the days shorten, the growth in the garden slows down, the seed heads are produced for the coming year and thoughts turn toward the planning of next year’s displays and the ‘re-setting’ of the garden.

September is also the month when most of the topiary is cut. Box (Buxus sempervirens), Yew (Taxus baccata), Beech (Fagus sylvatica), and Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) make up the main ornamental forms. When the other plants in the garden begin to drop their leaves or reclaim what energy stocks they can to store underground, the topiary forms come to the fore as the dominant structural shapes in the garden.

We held our first garden course in September looking at box cutting techniques. We worked using hand shears though of course electric and petrol cutters are a possibility. Where one might often seek a ‘natural’ look in the garden, box and topiary cutting is very definitely not that! You are creating a living sculpture where an imaginary three-dimensional shape is ‘thrown’ over the plant and the shoots cut back to that shape or allowed to grow into it. It has the benefit that in contrast to stone any mistakes made can be rectified once the plant has regrown! Box is a useful material to work with as it has dense growth and will readily develop new leaves so it can be cut ‘hard’ to create the desired shape.

In October we will be rearranging a number of plants in the garden, as we do most years. By creating something out of building blocks that grow no garden design is ever static and one has to be open to changes. One of the main changes we will make in October is to transplant the roses from the Yew Borders to the Herb Garden. The surrounding yew hedges make the space too dark and dry for the roses to thrive so we will clear areas in the Herb Garden where they will have more conducive growing conditions. It then opens up the opportunity to redesign the planting scheme in the Yew Borders.

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