August is the cruellest month around here – but we’re not there yet. By now winter has stayed too long and bleached too fully – but this warmer winter has hardly bleached the lawn. Overnight there was a little rain, and although this Sunday was bleak, it had none of the relentlessness that makes August so cruel.

hydrangea in winter

Yes, there are plenty signs of winter, but they tend to be of winter’s beauty, like these flowers from Hydrangea arborescens. We had visitors staying in the cottages this weekend and they loved the gardens. So no despair there.

hydrangea in winter detail

Because the winter has been mild our camellias, usually decidedly marginal for most of their season, are looking good.

Dark pink camellia

They have also now reached a size where at least some blooms are protected from the worst frost damage, even in a cold year. So that was where my focus lay on today’s walk.

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Camellias in the arboretum

In fact camellias were not the only blooms – more and more azaleas are testing the waters. I expected to find magnolias, but didn’t.

Azaleas in the New Old rose garden

Here they are in the New Old Rose Garden, a red azalea almost the same colour as the stalky Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ in front of it, which will be blooming by mid October. Behind them our best beech hangs on, as beeches do, to its browned leaves. But back to camellias: two lovely pinks, followed by a red.

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One of our most thankful shrubs is Spiraea cantoniensis known in South Africa as the ‘Cape May’ – a misnomer if ever there was one: spiraea are known in the UK as ‘May’ because they are spring blooming, but to us May is autumn; and it comes not from the Cape, but from China, if its name is anything to go by. Also known as The Bridal Wreath, that is an apt name for its arching stems densely packed with tiny sprays of minute white flowers. But it has another trick up its sleeve. When you think autumn is quite over, its leaves turn most photogenically.


All of this happens as the promise of flowers to come becomes ever more visible…


And there are the flowering quinces and other delights – but as my battery died after the last shot, this is where I leave you for now…


5 thoughts on “AN ACHE IN AUGUST

  1. That spirea is called, “Bridal Wreath” here in Canada as well, Jack! It IS a beaut but, alas, too large for my garden. BTW, my garden is currently undergoing a severe make-over. Check over at Mooseys in a couple of weeks for pictorial updates.

  2. Jack, just called by and read your news. Good luck with everything! We are just starting to plan for our move from India back to the UK and understand something of the challenges involved – although we will not be leaving behind something that we have loved and created, as you are, or facing the heartache that must be yours.

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