Nature Calendar: September in the British Garden
September is generally recognized as the beginning of autumn, and towards the end of the month the first frosts may be recorded. This may be a drier month than either July or August.
The herbaceous border still has gay clumps of Michaelmas daisies, and dahlias have now reached show standard. Chrysanthemums, too, make a fine display. Autumn-flowering gentians, such as Gentiana sino-ornata are in bloom, with tradescantia, cimicifuga and tree mallows. Anemone japonica and Echinacea purpurea are also flowering in the border against a foil of the attractive silvery foliage of artemesias. Verbena bonariensis will continue to bloom until the first frosts. Manyare now flowering for the second time. Ferns display a dazzling range of autumn colouring before being cut down by frosts.
Fleabane is common on many roadsides, and ivy is in flower. When grown on the walls of houses, the latter attracts blue-bottles, which tend to find their way indoors through open windows. The autumn crocus, rare as a wild plant,at this time, and the related meadow saffron can be seen in damp meadows.
SHRUBS AND TREES
The huge purple flowers of theor bloom in September; the deep cerise flowers of Erica Mrs D. F. Maxwell are also at their best now, and Clematis Lady Betty Balfour is still in bloom. The strawberry tree is particularly interesting, for it produces flowers and fruit at the same time.
The first leaves are beginning to turn, and the acers are clothed in exciting autumn colour. The leaves of the Virginia creeper should be a bright scarlet by the end of the month.
September is the season of ripe fruits and seeds. Blackberries are plentiful for picking and elderberries are ripe. The colourful fruits of the rowan or mountain ash and the juicy berries of the yew are eaten by birds, particularly thrushes, as soon as they are ripe. Hawthorn berries deck the hedges, and although these are safe for children to eat, the fruits of the woody nightshade and the honeysuckle are poisonous and should be avoided.
In the garden, Viburnum lantana bears attractive umbels of berries, and the branches of the berberis are strung with translucent red or purple fruits.
In the south, the last of the migrants can be seen in large numbers. The adult males are now moulting from breeding to winter plumage, and the young birds, though fully grown, are in dingier dress and look much like the females.
The willow warbler visits gardens again briefly, with the chiffchaff, easily recognized because it is in song. The wheatear is more frequently seen on the open commons.
As long as the weather remains settled and warm, some of the waders will stay for a time at suitable feeding places inland. Among these are the common sandpiper, green sandpiper and ringed plover. Quite large flocks of mallard and tufted duck gather on lakes. Black-headed gulls are there too, or on the fields where autumn ploughing has started.
There are still plenty of butterflies feeding at garden flowers on sunny days. Most interesting are the migrants, which are beginning their southward movement. The red admiral visits Michaelmas daisies, while painted lady and clouded yellow are seen on clover flowers in the meadows or on hawkweed among the stubble. A fairly common migrant moth, the silver Y, is often found at dusk on petunias, single dahlias, or late flowers of red valerian.
Daddy-long-legs are plentiful in the fields, and frequently come indoors.
As summer turns to autumn, dead shrews are a common sight in the countryside, for the life of this tiny animal, though a full and active one, is very short. The dormouse is busy eating the hazel nuts as they ripen, storing enough energy to enable it to survive its long winter sleep. The squirrels, though they do not hibernate, are also gathering and storing nuts and, in the wood, the fox can be seen in its autumn clothing of brilliant russet red.