Leaves On Fire

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' 013 Wm[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=

Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

The true autumn colour of ‘Osakazuki’ is starting to emerge. In another two or three days it will be a blaze of vivid red. Looking into the heart of this small tree is like gazing into glowing embers. I tried many times to capture the effect but it didn’t really work.


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The falling leaves serve to highlight the red tones in the Saxifraga stolonifera planted in a carpet below.


The bank 036 Wm[1]




The bank 030 Wm[1] rep




This is perhaps the most dramatic change between any two of the previous months. And not just because the scaffolding has come down. It is undeniably autumnal now. Next month for sure it will look different again, when we’ll be pretty much back to the bare bones.

Looking over the season I find myself quietly satisfied with the Precipitous Bank after its first year of proper attention. As ever there are gaps still to fill and next year I’ll be bulking up some of the perennials, if the test cases I’ve planted so far prove themselves worthy. There are ideas for new things to try as well so it certainly isn’t a done deal yet.


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Eschscholzia californica


The californian poppies have performed really well, after a shaky start. There are still some in bloom today (above) and I hope many more will have set seed over the summer. They’ve proved adept at threading themselves through foliage and it’s given me an idea. Running down the bank, from top right in the ‘usual’ view, there is a river of pulmonaria. It looks great in Spring, but when the flowers are over it just sits there as a big green lump, taking up space that could be used for more colour. I’m thinking of seeding that area with the poppies too. If it works and they germinate could they push up between the plants and give me a river of orange for the rest of the year?


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The bank in side view, taken from the path.

The croscosmia in the right foreground is a bit of a problem. Surely not I hear you say! Particularly if you’ve witnessed my long standing battle and the numerous bin bags of the dreadful stuff carted off down the dump. In flower I have to admit it does add something, but once the blooms fade it flops down the slope and I’m not sure if there is a solution. Anemanthele, the large pink grassy mounds, also have me in two minds. The leaves are beautiful at the moment and so is the lighter-than-air inflorescence.. close up. From the bottom of the slope, the most natural viewing point, it isn’t quite so photogenic. It’s still slated for a move come Spring.


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Anemanthele lessoniana

The close up shot: fabulous autumn tints in the pheasant’s tail grass, perhaps a hint as to the origin of its common name. He’s back by the way. Mr Ptolemy. I caught him up on the terraces this morning, pecking at my penstemons. He has no shame.


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Anemanthele with cosmos and hardy fuchsia


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Verbena bonariensis

Not quite so easy to photograph this one. We were teetering on the very edge of the bank, Mike and the not-quite-walking wounded one. It was wet and slippery and possibly not one of my better ideas. Below the verbena we found evidence of just how wet it’s been over the last week.


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It’s not that many days since I was last in this place, having to use a hand fork like a mattock to weed. Now it is damp enough for fungus to sprout. There are fairy rings in the lawn as well.


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We may be almost at the end of another growing season, but the circle continues to turn. How exciting it will be, watching it all come back again next year.

Fingers crossed.


Linking up with Helen’s End Of Month View (here) at The Patient Gardener’s Weblog. Click through to find out what other gardeners are up to this month.


2017-10-24T19:32:43+00:00October 31st, 2015|Tags: |


  1. justjilluk October 31, 2015 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Just beautiful. What an amazing job you have done.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 8:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jill. It will let up a bit now and I can have a rest!

  2. SeagullSuzie October 31, 2015 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Your garden is a real beauty and looking at these photos I really didn’t realise just how much of a bank that is on the other side of the terraces. Crocosmias are a pain in the wrong place…I too have them in the back garden (which is tiny) and they are not right, but to save money I think I should put them in the front garden which is sadly lacking and has room for the beasts. I love your grasses-they look fantastic.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      They have done me a service in the short term.. there are so many of them that they quickly lend an air of maturity to a new area of the garden. But it doesn’t take long before my patience is tested. I keep meaning to try one of the newer varieties that is less invasive. That’s the answer I think.

  3. Linda aka Crafty Gardener October 31, 2015 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    I love the dramatic colours as Autumn fades away.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      The last hoorah.

  4. Linda P. October 31, 2015 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Beautiful. I like the way the grasses seem to flow downwards and the dramatic colours of the acer seen from the perspective of the winding path in the first photograph. You must be pleased with what you’ve achieved this year.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      It looks completely different to last year, but more importantly I think I have a better idea of where I want to go with it now. And the grunt work is done so hopefully next year should be more about tinkering and additional planting. Thanks Linda.

  5. Rosie October 31, 2015 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    How beautiful, you have achieved so much and there is a lot to look forward too for next year. Trust Mr Ptolemy to find the penstemons. Oh, that crocosmia does go very droopy at this time of year, doesn’t it?:)

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Mr Ptolemy makes a beeline for anything bright and shiny. I wonder if it is coincidence that as soon as Metal Ptolemy moved to his winter quarters the real one came back?

  6. sustainablemum October 31, 2015 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    Your hard work seems to be paying off even if Mr Ptolemy would like to undo it for you! Hope the toe is improving.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      Mr Ptolemy and all his many accomplices! Toe is slowly improving, but so is the weather and it’s frustrating not being able to get out there. Thanks.

  7. Freda October 31, 2015 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    It does droop (the crocosmia) but it adds a bit of drama and dynamism to the scene, as does the soft grass at the other end of the texture spectrum! The bank is looking fabulous Jessica. I hope you have almost recovered.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      I’m looking for grasses that give a slightly lighter and less dumpy effect. I’ve got the perfect place for the Anemanthele though, or several, where they can be seen from above and fill a lot of space for me. It’s just a juggling act sometimes isn’t it. Right plant, right place.

  8. FlowerAlley October 31, 2015 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    I love the mushroom photo. I am a fungus fan. It’s nice to see nature visiting our gardens. It’s not all plants.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      I’m amazed that the fungus appeared so quickly. It’s lovely to have wildlife in the garden too, just as long as they keep the damage within reasonable bounds.

  9. Sue Garrett October 31, 2015 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Isn’t it a shame that the autumn leaves stay much longer..

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      It’s so fleeting. We had quite a bit of wind and rain last week, it’s made a big difference.

  10. Pauline October 31, 2015 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    You have worked so hard and the results are there to see, your bank is looking so good, a real tapestry of texture and colour. I think the crocosmia adds a certain something with its bright green leaves, I have it popping up everywhere too!

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      It’s gravity affecting the crocosmia perhaps, the upper portion of the clump doesn’t droop so much. I really need to keep on top of it, whilst the bulbs are easy to pull out! Thanks Pauline.

  11. Brian Skeys October 31, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    We are looking for a new red leafed Acer for the garden Jessica. Do you know how tall Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ will eventually become? It is a lovely coloured Acer. The Pheasant Tail is the first grass I grew ( I don’t know how many name changes it has had!) and is still a favourite. I am pleased you are getting about.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      The Acer can grow quite tall, up to 4m. My specimen is effectively bonsaied I think, it was in a pot so long before we came here and I planted it out. It has also lost its leader somewhere along the line so it has a flat top. It isn’t showing much inclination to grow taller than it is now. If that continues it’s perfect for that spot. It’s supposed to be the deepest red you can get in an Acer.

  12. CJ October 31, 2015 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Love the fuschia with the thatch in the background, and the fungus – amazing. The acer is just glorious, love it. CJ xxc

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks CJ. The fungus is growing out of one of the old tree stumps. Nothing has eaten it yet. That is amazing in itself.

  13. Sarah October 31, 2015 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    A wonderful final performance to mark the end of the growing season. That acer is so lovely.Hope you made Rosemoor today. Sarah x

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      It’s sad to see it all withering away, but I am looking forward to seeing what comes back. Hopefully it will be more established next year.

  14. Josephine October 31, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    A virtual Joseph’s Coat of colors in your garden, one of the many reasons I so love Autumn.
    Thank you for the sweet sentiments, it lessens the pain knowing others have trod the path before….

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      The colours seem to get ever deeper. I love the tartan effect of the reds and greens.
      Take care Jo, thinking of you xx

  15. Charlie@Seattle Trekker October 31, 2015 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Your garden is always so full of such amazing color. It must be so therapeutic to spend even a few moments walking through it each day.

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      Having a garden gives us something to look forward to each morning. There’s always something new to see.

  16. Indie October 31, 2015 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    What a gorgeous Japanese maple! I have a couple little maples, but they need to grow up a little to get a nice mass of pretty autumn color. I love the fuchsias and hints of pinks throughout the slope. The crocosmia actually seems to give a nice contrast of more chartreuse colored leaves and I like the look of the shape of the leaves, but maybe it looks worse close up. Happy autumn!

    • Jessica October 31, 2015 at 9:56 pm - Reply

      I think I will keep half the crocosmia clump. The top half is on more even ground and doesn’t seem to flop so much. Today I’ve planted some of the seeds from the maple, hoping that I can get some baby plants from it too. Thanks Indie.

  17. Julieanne October 31, 2015 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    I really like Anemanthele lessoniana; I think it’s a grass that works better where you can get up close to appreciate its flowers moving in the breeze. My survives in my highly windy north facing driveway, as well as in sun, so when you come to moving it you have lots of options.

    The bank has quite a bit of colour and is looking really good. All that work has been worth it. Your idea with the Eschscholzia californica sounds great and I look forward to seeing that in flower, if the seeds obey(!), next year.

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      I think you’re spot on about seeing Anemanthele up close, which clearly isn’t possible where I have it at the moment. I plan to have three together, which will create a much more balanced effect, somewhere where I can not only see them up close but perhaps even walk through the fringes of them. That would work well, I hope.

  18. Beth @ PlantPostings November 1, 2015 at 4:00 am - Reply

    Oh my, I love the September to October comparison, and your steep bank garden looks absolutely stunning! I remember when you were working on it, and now all the hard work is paying off. Wow!

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      There is still more work for next year, but now I can visualise where it will end up. If I’ve achieved nothing else this year, that is enough.

  19. homeslip November 1, 2015 at 8:27 am - Reply

    It’s looking lovely – a testament to how hard you’ve been working. It would have been so easy to give up on the bank but you haven’t and just look at it now, it is a living tapestry. Regarding crocosmia, I have found C. Honeybells to be neat and upright with sunshine yellow flowers.

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the crocosmia tip. The newer varieties are supposed to be better behaved than the common montbretia which I’m quite sure is what we have here.

  20. Sam November 1, 2015 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Gosh, it really is a riot of glorious autumnal hues. What a sumptuous red that Acer is. It’s bizarrely mild here for the time of year too. Hope your toe is better.

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:15 pm - Reply

      The acer is even redder today. It must change according to the soil though because I saw a couple of the same variety today, at Rosemoor no less, which had orange leaves rather than red.

  21. Vera November 1, 2015 at 9:41 am - Reply


    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks Vera. Onwards and upwards.

  22. Em November 1, 2015 at 10:24 am - Reply

    So beautiful. I love the one of the bank looking hairy! x

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      It may need a haircut..

  23. bittster November 1, 2015 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    What wonderful fall colors. I just love all the yellows and oranges mixed a few bold pinks and it looks so bright now compared to the earlier days. Nice!

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      At the end of the year I’ll re-publish the photo of how it was before I started work… all green. I’ve still a long way to go but making a little bit of headway does help to keep me going. Thanks Frank.

  24. AnnetteM November 1, 2015 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Your garden is looking wonderful in its Autumn colours. I love the photo of the orange poppy, which has reminded me to get hold of some seeds for next year. I have lots of yellow ones, but no orange which I prefer. Your Verbena look as tall as mine, are they breeding them bigger these days?

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      The verbena is huge, the wind has bent it over at that strange angle. The self seedlings are growing even taller than the parents. If it keeps going like this I will have verbena trees.

  25. Rick Nelson November 1, 2015 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Looking really good rd, Anemanthele lessoniana is one of my all time favourites, in a spot back-lit by the winter sun it catches fire.

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      The colours in the leaves are glorious, I do need to have it where I can appreciate it without a mountain hike. Thanks Rick.

  26. Dorothy @ The Nature of Things November 1, 2015 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Beautiful. That maple really blazes.

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      It’s a stunner. I’ve planted some of its seeds this weekend, I hope I get something similar from the offspring.

  27. Island Threads November 1, 2015 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    so you should feel satisfied with the bank Jessica, you have worked hard on it and it is looking good, I totally understand about the crocosmia, I am thinking it is the common montbretia, I have more than I need too and have been digging some out recently, I have found a use for it though, due to how difficult it is with the grass, I have noticed like A.mollis it can tough out the grass, so I am replanting it just outside my fence as a barrier against the grass,
    I love the sideways view of the bank, I am surprised at how much the plants are flopping and falling down hill, plants usually grow up to the light, could it be the top of the bank is more shaded than lower down near the house and they are leaning into the light, I think the river of orange poppies will look lovely, have you seen Christina’s at My Hesperides garden? the poppies on her slope always look lovely, Frances

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      You’re absolutely right Frances, the trees you can see behind the bank partially overhang it. It’s a problem, not least because I also need the bank to look good from the back, from the drive, but everything wants to face the house. It was seeing Christina’s slope that gave me the idea of using poppies in the first place. I wasn’t sure how they’d fare in the less hospitable climate, but the first year has been good. It’ll be interesting to see whether I do get self seeders as well as the new ones I sow.

      • Island Threads November 3, 2015 at 8:58 am - Reply

        plant shade lovers at the top or at the very least shade tolerant plants, if you plant sun lovers in shady areas they are going to lean and there is nothing can be done except to remove the shade or move the plants, right plant right place, you could have an interesting mix coming down the slope with shade lovers at the top, shade tolerant in the middle and sun seekers at the bottom, I once planted lilies in my little bed and they leaned, it just doesn’t get enough sun there so I have moved them to a sunny spot, much better, in your river you said you already have pulmonaria, which I understand is a shade lover, so another shade lover would be more suitable, with the poppies at the sunny bottom, if ferns grow naturally then that is a strong indication of a shady place, I am so far north I have found many sun seekers just do not grow at all but I can grow shade lovers in the sun, someone who gardens near the med. told me she is the opposite, she can’t grow shade lovers but can grow sun seekers in the shade, look at gardens with the same or similar conditions and see what grows, right plant, right place, makes an easier life for the gardener. Frances

        • Jessica November 3, 2015 at 3:55 pm - Reply

          I totally agree Frances. I had originally hoped that enough sun would find its way under the trees but it does seem to be the ferns that are faring best at the top. It’s all a bit of an experiment and I continue to move things around if they don’t seem to thrive in a particular place. When this bank is done I’ll be moving into the woodland and then it’ll be all shade lovers. I want to maximise the few sunny areas that I have.

  28. Anna November 1, 2015 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    Oh that acer is rather special Jessica. All the hard work you’ve put into the Precipitous Bank is certainly paying dividends. Time to give yourself a pat on the back!

    • Jessica November 1, 2015 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anna. The trick will be to keep on top of the weeding, especially where I’ve still got bare soil. It would be so easy for it all to become overwhelmed again.

  29. CherryPie November 1, 2015 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    You have nurtured and captured some beautiful autumn colours.

    • Jessica November 3, 2015 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cherie. It seems to have been a good year for colours!

  30. Linda November 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    It’s really coming along nicely. I like the contrast of the green Crocosmia leaves swooping down the hill with the fall colors. Maybe you just need to reduce the size some more. Great fall color!

    • Jessica November 3, 2015 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      I was looking at the crocosmia again yesterday and I think that’s the solution. If I take out the front few plants then even if they flop at least they won’t smother everything else. Thanks Linda.

  31. Angie November 2, 2015 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Your efforts have paid off Jessica, the bank look amazing in all it’s autumn glory. Those planned poppies I think will make a stunning display.

    • Jessica November 3, 2015 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      I may need to thin out the pulmonaria a bit to give the poppies more breathing space, but if they self seed and bulk up in the future it could look quite effective.

  32. germac4 November 3, 2015 at 12:47 am - Reply

    I am full of admiration for the work you have done on such a tricky sloping garden..it looks wonderful and you will have a reference point for spring when you look back at these photos…

    • Jessica November 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      I’m really looking forward to next year, when it starts to feel more established. It’s great to have a photographic record isn’t it. Thanks Gerrie.

  33. natalie November 3, 2015 at 11:25 am - Reply

    What gorgeous colours! Here we are entering the month of grey… all the leaves are off the trees, everything is dying, but there’s no snow yet so it all just looks a bit dismal! At least I can come here for some colour. 🙂

    • Jessica November 3, 2015 at 3:57 pm - Reply

      It is the greyest of all possible grey days here today. The beech trees are looking very colourful now too but the leaves are falling fast!

  34. Annabelle Spender November 6, 2015 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Wow! Your photographs are beautiful! It is great to see the range of colours in Autumn in them.

    • Jessica November 6, 2015 at 11:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Annabelle and thanks. It’s been a great year for autumn colour, it fell into my photographic lap really!

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