Battening down the hatches

As a gardener I watch the weather with an obsessive attention known to few others. The advent of weather apps for my mobile phone – I use the BBC Weather app at the moment – as well as forecast updates every 15 minutes on the BBC News Channel – means that it’s possible to track every twist and turn of the weather as it develops.

Whether this is wise, I am unsure: too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing. As I have commented before, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. The British weather is a notoriously fickle mistress, and I have sometimes fallen foul of planning too far ahead. Cancelling everything outdoors because of impending rain, only to find it’s a lovely day in the event, can be deeply frustrating (not to say, a little costly).

So, what to make of the warnings, which have been getting louder and fiercer all week, about the next 24 hours’ weather? Will the promised/threatened storm materialise? Or will it fizzle out like a damp Catherine Wheel? 

First off, it’s clearly serious enough for all the met people to agree – and the warnings have been fairly consistent as regards location and timing of the storm. So I think it’s worth paying attention. Sometime between now and tomorrow morning there will be some high winds and rain in these parts. How high the wind, and how much rain, remains to be seen – but the principle of the thing is clear.

So, what better incentive to get out in the garden to put away anything that (a) probably needs to go away anyway as the summer is well and truly behind us, and (b) might just get blown away or damaged? I am thinking about patio furniture, outdoor lighting, parasols, hammocks… Into the shed they go, to emerge next May perhaps. A melancholy admission of the seasons’ turning, but better than having to retrieve them from three gardens away on Monday morning.

On the plant front, I have to admit that my own garden is still waiting for anything approaching an autumn tidy. One reason has been time and other priorities – namely getting clients’ gardens tidied. Another reason is that I am not too much of a ‘neat freak’ in my own garden, when it comes to cutting down the summer’s growth. Wildlife of all sorts values some untidiness – it’s what occurs naturally after all. Dead stems, soggy leaves, seedheads: as long as there’s no risk to the health of other plants, they’re all best left. Clear fallen leaves from the crowns of perennials, where they might rot and cause problems: but leave them on the borders in between, where they will harbour insects and worms – and provide both nutrition for the soil, and a happy hunting ground for insect-eating birds such as robins and blackbirds. 

So, the wind will doubtless take a toll of some things if it is as strong as forecast. But we lost our most vulnerable tree – a 60 year old apple – last winter in the heavy snow, so I am fairly optimistic that nothing substantial will come down. Fingers crossed.

As to the house, as a neighbour said of his own house a couple of days ago, it will no doubt have seen worse in its 120-odd years. I’ll let you know in the morning.

Take care all.

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