Autumn chill

A nippy morning or two these past couple of days. Children have been gloved-up for the walk to school, and I even resorted to a scarf myself. The days themselves have been glorious though: sunny and bright. There are hints of autumn colour coming through in the trees, and every gust of cold wind sends another confetti of leaves skittering to the floor.

I don’t know whether the summer weather means a good or a poor autumn for colour. We shall certainly be making our annual October visit to Stourhead as soon as the leaves turn en masse: the best place I know for autumn colour.

Thank you for your appreciative comments about my previous post: including a nice one from Monty Don himself. It was a pleasure to have a chance to write about poetry and gardens together – two things closest to my heart.

Work is involving a lot of tidying-up and pruning at the moment. As well as cutting lawns and preparing them for the winter. 

I tackled a client’s extensive ivy problem the other day. It had spilled over the back wall – which, when revealed, is actually a lovely old brick wall – and pushed its growth about 5 feet into the garden, leaving nothing underneath. The garden is not a very big one, so the loss of something approaching 100 square feet was a proportionately very significant one. Lo and behold, in amongst the ivy were the – very deceased – remains of a row of conifers which had simply been smothered. The house itself was a similarly ivy-clad affair, with the topmost growth getting under the eaves. My ladders would not get me that high, so a return trip with better equipment is required. I did, however, manage to clear most of the front and side walls, and get it away from the window frames – again, it was starting to insinuate itself into the house. Dusty, unappealing work, but once done it is done. Then there is the question of what to do with the area of garden – dry as a bone, full of conifer roots –  I have revealed…

I was also going to cut back a large Lonicera which has far outgrown its spot. Until I realised a pair of Woodpigeons were happily nesting in it, perched on top of the pergola.  Woodpigeons are, of course, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. As such it is an offence to disturb them when nesting – the same goes for all wild birds: and rightly so. There is a common misconception that common species such as Woodpigeons, Magpies and Carrion Crows are somehow exempt from legal protection: not so. These birds – so common now (and reasserting themselves against the newcomer Collared Doves in many areas) – will nest practically the whole year round. I found a dead squab in the garden at home a couple of weeks back: much appreciated by a handful of magpies, who made short work of the carcass.

The post brought lots and lots of spring bulbs this week: so I will be busy getting those in. Some are for clients, others for myself. Tulips, which have a few weeks’ grace yet, are my thing this year. I never really felt much for them in the past, put off by the regimented rows of bright scarlet which never seem pleasing to me. There are so many more varieties available now – at least, readily available – that I have fallen for the dark purples, pale yellows and creams which are elegance itself. Gorgeous crimson and gold ‘Abu Hassan’ is a particular favourite. Nicer, I now feel, than daffs- though I will be planting plenty of them too. I am trialling some Narcissus Poeticus bulbs for Thompson & Morgan this season, so will be keen to see how they turn out: one of the oldest varieties, and the Narcissus of classical mythology.

But spring is a long way away yet, and we will see what the winter has in store for us. If you subscribe to the folk adage that lots of berries mean a harsh winter, then we are in for another long, cold time of it judging by the Pyracantha, Cotoneaster and other berry-bearing shrubs I see each day. The first winter thrushes from Scandinavia are arriving, hastened by the cold northerly winds, as are the first Arctic geese and swans. I haven’t seen any Redwings or Fieldfares yet, but it won’t be long I reckon. That said, I saw a handful of Swallows earlier in the week – late summer and early winter in one.

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