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Let autumn commence! No not in a drab and dreary way but with golden light and harvest festivities in the air because it’s time to pull on the wellington boots, put on an over-coat and embrace the great outdoors.

October provides exhilarating and dazzling colour as the leaves turn to their autumnal hues; especially in the arboretum so go exploring for a good October stomp.

This year’s Apple Affair was once again a success despite the weather’s best efforts to create a wash-out beforehand.It’s a show for the celebrated apple and although this has been a pretty dismal year for that crop there were still plenty to taste and admire.Most of the apples have been harvested for the show - however the trees in the orchard within the walled gardens are still looking picturesque in their fruitless state but definitely worthy of a look-see.

After a dryer month in August, we had nearly 100mm of rain during September continuing the wet, wet, wet theme of 2012. Grass continues to grow lushly making grass cutting and edging a weekly ritual to keep on top. Thank goodness for the metal edging that allows the staff and volunteers, behind the edging shears, to snip away at some speed keeping the garden paths and beds looking crisp and clean.

Soon the hard landscaping of the sunken garden will be completed and the paths and grass areas turfed prior to planting in spring. The prepared planting lists, favouring plants with fragrance, form and texture, will fill the beds in spring hopefully creating a restful but sensory place to linger - watch this space!And while you are strolling around the gardens there is still a lot of flower colour in the mixed borders and cutting gardens to enjoy. Masses of Japanese anemones flourish in the pergola borders and there is plenty of eye popping colours in the beds in the walled gardens.

This month too brings summer bedding to a close; shortly the bright sunny tones of summer bedding on the west lawn will make way for rose coloured bellis plants and blue forget-me-not with tulip Lydia to flower in April for our spring display. Elsewhere beds of wallflowers will provide jolly relief to the wintery tones of the general landscape but these will be located in sheltered positions in the walled garden and near the garden shop where pheasants will leave them alone we hope.

The ornamental glasshouse gourds and cucumbers have now been harvested and lie on the wooden duck boards for admiring glances.These along with other members of the same plant family will be used for art classes within the college over winter. And finally........ there is still plenty to see in the kitchen garden, cabbages have their look-at-me dresses on, and the leeks are looking soldier-like in their uprightness.

Whenever you visit the gardens grab a garden map/leaflet and take your time to meander along the paths to view the gardens and the landscape beyond. At this time of year you may have an opportunity to bring friends here as well to visit the gardens. Regular visitors often say that it’s a treat to come into the gardens as frequently as they do to see the incremental changes that take place. Some come on a weekly basis others less regularly so if you’re interested, why not become a Friend of West Dean to enjoy the gardens to the full.

Ideas and Tips

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Useful ideas and tips from the gardeners at West Dean.

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How to Find Us

Find us - West Dean aerial view

West Dean College and Gardens are situated in South East England, six miles north of the historic city of Chichester and 12 miles from the south coast.

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