Sunday, 29 September 2013

F₁ Hybrid Gardening Contortionists

Gardeners are extraordinary hybrids of the here and hence. Our feet are firmly planted in the fine tilth of today, but our brains keep galloping off to the future. My body is currently in autumn (which sounds like a comment on my age rather than the season), but my mind has been bouncing around like a lamb in spring ever since the bulb catalogues started dropping through the letter box in July, which was, of course, when the rest of my body was luxuriating in mid-summer. 


It may sound improbable when we stand up, stiff-backed after a long weeding session, but gardeners are marvellous time-flexible contortionists with futuristic heads grafted onto gardening bodies (I am now getting an image of Sarah Raven rootstock with a scion of The Jetsons). This arrangement means that we have the capacity to escape from the more challenging aspects of any season. The very notion of winter without seed catalogues makes me shiver; but if my head is in high summer, cold weather becomes more bearable.


Last winter (the one which seemed to last forever), my mind was abuzz with autumn pollinators and as a result, butterflies and bees are now enjoying Asterfest in the farmhouse garden. I have been particularly impressed with Aster amellus 'Veilchenk├Ânigin', which is short (around 35cm), stocky and a strong violet colour; but at the moment the pollinators seem to prefer Aster amellus 'King George'.

Small Tortoiseshell on Aster amellus 'King George'
Autumn is the season of butternut squash, brambling and bulb planting. I mention butternut squash since my fondness for it may shortly be put to the test. Unless there is a catastrophic squash meltdown, we will soon be harvesting 10 socking great fruits from three 'Sweetmax' plants grown from seed sown in March. It is the first time that I have grown this variety and if it tastes good, I shall certainly sow it next year (head in spring again). 


I am unable to work out whether I am becoming more clumsy in the garden or if my manners are improving with age, but I seem to be spending an increasing amount of time apologising to plants for accidentally deadheading perfectly good flowers, or digging up bulbs. Last week, while my mind was mulling over springtime sources of nectar and pollen, I inadvertently dragged a daffodil bulb from the soil. I don’t know who looked more shocked: me; the daff; or the passers-by who overheard me begging a bulb’s pardon. Once the daff was tucked safely back in bed, I scurried, red-faced, back to the house to add Crocus tommasinianus to my plant list. Come February, the lawn will be awash with purple; bees will be blanketed in pollen; and with any luck, my blushes may finally have faded.


The hedgerow fruits are looking resplendent in the autumn sunlight and as usual the plumpest, juiciest blackberries are just out of reach. This is no bad thing because they can be enjoyed by winged wildlife and my sense of guilt about gathering berries is assuaged. Recently, I have been leaving fruit on the lower branches too, as there have been several sightings in the farm hedgerows of a rare species which migrates from its natural habitat to feast on ripe blackberries. One of my proudest photographic achievements has been capturing two of these shy creatures on camera. 


Please remember that the Lesser Spotted Onesie Brambler hunts in packs and should only be disturbed if you are in possession of a fully prepared crumble topping and custard. 

68 comments:

  1. The problem is focus when it comes to those seed catalogues!

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    1. Too many delights on offer and not enough garden!

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  2. I love the onesie bramblers! What a great idea to think ahead for the pollenaters in Autumn. I have just started pruning and was saying sorry to the bees that have no lavender heads anymore. xx

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    1. Gosh - our lavender must be late as it still has masses of flowers! I try to leave as many flowers/seed heads in place as possible over winter; this saves me from having to make quite so many public apologies and gives shelter and food to birds and various mini beasts. I do take loads of lavender cuttings though, just in case the weight of flower stems or snow makes the shrub look a bit sorry for itself. They root pretty quickly in late summer.

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  3. I've been busy apologising to the beautiful spiders all around the garden, whose webs I keep damaging by accident. I have even crouched down twice (once past a shrub and once through the greenhouse door) to avoid breaking the webs whilst getting into the greenhouse. I also say sorry for trampling on plants and breaking branches!
    Your observations are quite right we are always thinking ahead. I'm going to look out for those Asters, and the butternut squash looks great.

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    1. The webs have been particularly beautiful this autumn - it makes me half-want a good frost so that they will stand out even better. I bet you don't apologise to weeds when you accidentally step on them!

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  4. So funny these onesie bramblers. I am not pruning yet there is still too much life in the garden, but I am already looking out for the seed catalogues.
    Have a nice new gardening week!

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    1. Two seed catalogues arrived this morning! Winter is nigh!

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  5. Oh too cute...don't think I've spotted any around here,but am always hopeful.

    Jen

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  6. They are so cute and, hopefully, not too rare a sight in your garden.

    Planting for the pollinators is so rewarding. Thinking ahead is so important and for us involves dreaming of autumn when we plant the things most gardeners grow in summer.

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    1. It is incredibly rewarding, Shirley. For me, plants which don't attract pollinators really don't seem so attractive by comparison to those which are buzzing with life. I have so enjoyed watching butterflies and bees closely this summer; and it is because they stop on the plants for a while and this gives me a very privileged view of them.

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  7. Love those bramblers! The image of your lawn will surely get you through the winter, along with the seed catalogues and some butternut soup! (It freezes beautifully. ;-) )

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    1. Does it? Excellent! I am almost wishing winter upon myself now!

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  8. The Lesser Spotted Onesie Brambler is adorable! I wish I had a blackberry bush. I still remember the taste of a juicy blackberry bursting in my mouth as I picked a blackberry bush in our back yard as a small child. Blackberry jelly is the closest I have come since.

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    1. It is such a shame that you can't grow something which is a weed in the UK. Are there none of the attractive, thornless cultivars available for you?

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    2. I haven't seen any in local nurseries, but now that I am thinking about it, I realize that a whole world of plants is available via the internet. There is hope yet. I can just taste those berries!

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    3. Bless the internet! I look forward to reading how you get on.

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  9. Being on a new property I have no idea if there are spring bulbs under the soil. Crocus is destined for the small patch of grass beside the vegetable plot. I didn't realise they were pollinator friendly until you mentioned it. I just wanted to be able to see them from the kitchen window. How are you going to store the butternut squash? Is humidity a problem?

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    1. The wait for bulbs when you move to a new home is so exciting - I hope you find many hidden treasures. I haven't a clue what I am going to do with all the squash - we have never had a butternut glut before! I may have to erect some kind of squash storage system. Thankfully, we don't have issues with humidity and we do have barns, so I am hopeful that we can find a way to store some of them.

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  10. Looks like you garden is still so full of life.

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    1. It is... and that's just how I like it!

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  11. Love the mysterious blackberry pickers - thoughts of spring are never very far away and as the bulb catagloues plop through the letter box I can feel my bank balance dwindling rapidly.

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    1. Ah yes - I have conveniently forgotten that we are entering the most expensive time of year!

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  12. Have to say the onesie brambler duo looks cute! There's always something to be excited about in this gardening lark whatever the season.

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    1. I suspect that the onesie might be the ultimate garment for wearing to pick blackberries (although I am not sure what the passers-by would think if I donned one for a spot of brambling of a Sunday afternoon).

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  13. Those Lesser Spotted Onesie Bramblers look to be keen foragers. You've done so well with the butternut squash, I hope they taste delicious. I haven't even started thinking about spring bulbs yet, I need to get my skates on.

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    1. You've got time... I usually order them and then don't have time to plant them until around Christmas Eve. They are usually remarkably forgiving about my tardiness.

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  14. Ha - pleased to hear that I'm not the only one who apologises to plants that are mistakenly pulled up... and bees that I disturb while deadheading! I've never seen a lesser spotted onesie brambler - maybe the species has yet to reach our part of the country!

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    1. There may be an influx of them once the weather turns cold.

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  15. Excellent post. Gardeners are indeed temporal contortionists. I love the tortoiseshell butterfly, and your berries are luscious and luminous. Happy brambling!

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    1. Thank you! "Temporal contortionists" makes us sound mind-bendingly clever! The small tortoiseshell is such a pretty thing. We have been inundated with them this year and their caterpillars completely stripped one of our nettle patches.

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  16. I agree about living in one season but thinking about another. I'm about to imagine my patch next spring and the bulbs I ought to plant for it. This means I'm also thinking about last spring and what I remember looked good in other people's gardens (and what the bees loved)
    I love the Onesie pair - I'd heard about a Onesie but never seen one. It's another 'first' sighting of a new creature this year.

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    1. Onesies must be like buses; nothing... then then two come along at the same time. I agree with you about remembering what looked good in other people's gardens, although your memory must be far better than mine since I rely heavily on my notes and photos.

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  17. Hahahaha...I love the Onesie Bramblers! Lucky you for spotting them, and especially for getting that rare photo. Perhaps they visit my garden; maybe they're the ones that have eaten most of the berries that have disappeared mysteriously. And here I was blaming the birds...

    Lovely post and photos!

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    1. Thank you, Martha. I understand that the Onesie Brambler has a voracious appetite and can out-eat a bird any day of the week. Having said that, the very sight of a small spider will send the Onesie Brambler scurrying for cover, so you might consider adorning your berries with spiders in future.

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  18. Love it, you are exactly right, we rarely have both head and body in the same time zone. I frequently stare out over a border seeing, not what is there, but what could, or should, or will, given time and luck, be there in years to come. Almost as hard to explain as talking to bulbs. I too have ordered Crocus tommasinianus in hopes of carpets of buzzing purple in the grass. Magnificent butternuts! My other half isn't a fan so I don't bother with them any more.

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    1. It is a shame your other half isn't a fan. We roasted one of the butternuts last night and it was delicious, so 'Sweetmax' has been added to the seed order for next year.

      Seeing what isn't there is an important skill for gardeners, especially in a new garden. I have become adept at applying this skill to most areas of my life. It doesn't get the chores done, but in my mind's eye, everything is as it should be.

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  19. You put it so well! Us gardeners with our futuristic heads (we just can't help it). I enjoyed your lovely post, especially the photo of those exotic creatures picking berries. :-)

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  20. Your squash looks amazing!!! You nailed it when you described gardeners and their bouncing thoughts! And you had me chuckling when you were caught talking to the daff! If someone put an animal in my garden or a pot of plants, I would probably be talking to the plant first! Ha! Maybe were all a bit nuts! Your garden sounds like a magical place....especially with those pickers! All the best to you this autumn!

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    1. Thank you! I cannot accept any credit for the amazing squash; I suspect it must thrive on neglect.

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  21. Lovely post,GS.What a state you are in talking to your plants and thinking of Spring already! (I agree that it is great fun planning and dreaming with a catalogue to hand). Your lovely photographs show how you appreciate Autumn too. I think gardens look magical on a cold autumn morning

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    1. Oh I do love autumn. Gardens look fabulous in the autumn sunlight - as do spiders' webs. I think I prefer the warm mornings though!

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  22. Nice photos, GS! I especially love this one with sheep.
    Thank you for comment on my blog!

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    1. My pleasure. I enjoyed reading your blog, Nadezda. We lived next door to a sheep field in our last house and the lambs were very sweet and extremely noisy!

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  23. The conservationists will be pleased to hear of your sighting of the Onesie Bramblers! A very rare breed indeed!
    I often talk or should that be apologies to the plants - my clumsy feet quite often get in the way! Autumn not showing many signs here just yet. Enjoy yours!

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    1. I am enjoying autumn, Angie! We are busy preparing borders for new hedgerows as the soil is still easy to dig at the moment. Long may this glorious autumn continue!

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  24. Lovely to see what you are growing for autumn insects. I'm hoping to have some bee and butterfly-friendly plants next year, so I'm taking notes!

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    1. That is good news! May your plants be smothered in butterflies and bees next year!

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  25. I too am always thinking ahead to the next season. Notes get scribbled down, plant names and 'brilliant' ideas. This year when I was about to put the plans into action, my old back problems started up, and I had to spend several weeks watching the weeds grow!
    Thank you for visiting my blog. I look forward to reading back through your old posts.

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    1. It is so frustrating to have great plans and then to be let down by our bodies. I hope you have recovered fully now.

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  26. h, those onesie bramblers look adorable, I haven’t got any fruit in my tiny garden and around here there are only well manicured London streets and no hedgerows so I don’t think I will be able to spot any of those!
    I am forever thinking about next season and the next one after that, can’t stop being tempted by email offers and all those delicious plant catalogues that seem to find their way through my door! I have just made an order to Coblands, they had 50% off last week-end, just couldn’t resist! Tulips for next spring, penstemons for next summer, a Dicentra formosa Alba for my new all-white flower bed (still work in progress) and a Daphne odora that I have wanted for soo long but at half price I just had to have it. Sigh, my bank account is not thanking me….

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    1. Do you think there will ever be a plant catalogue that doesn't tempt us? I really love the plants you chose; Dicentra formosa is irresistible and Daphne odora is a pricey one, so you had to grab that bargain. Thank goodness bank accounts can't speak!

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  27. I can relate to the time contortionist idea. That's part of the fun though, looking forward to new things to try.

    I've had a bumper butternut squash harvest too. I plant to make soup from one today.

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    1. I am so pleased that you are having a bumper butternut harvest too. I suspect that it is probably one of the better veggies to glut. I hope the soup was good!

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  28. What a fun post! I loved the glimpse of your mysterious Bramblers and those squash look wonderful. I can already taste the squash soup! In my youth I was always in another season, as you mentioned. Now that I am a bit older, I have acquired 'haiku brain' and this requires staying firmly in the moment!

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    1. I try very hard to stay in the moment, but there is no controlling my brain. It does boomerang back to the present now and again to enjoy a butterfly or a sunset, but it never stays long. I like the idea of 'haiku brain'!

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  29. Lovely post. Laughed outloud at you apologising to an uprooted bulb !Also the image of Sarah Ravens/ The Jetsons will live long in my memory !!

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  30. My daffs would much prefer your garden to mine. I just rip out any that are in the way and stuff them back in later. My blackberries are devoured by birds well before I can harvest any. But I'll take your crumble any day!

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  31. Congratulations on getting a photo of the Lesser Spotted Onesies Bramblers! I don't have those in my garden, and they look quite elusive. They also look like they were so busy gathering that they forgot to watch out for photographers! I also laughed at the image of the hybrid gardener. I feel exactly like that - my forward-thinking head is grafted onto a stiff-backed contortionist body!

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    1. Thank you! I tend to only see Lesser Spotted Onesie Bramblers at weekends and occasionally in the early evening. I haven't a clue what they do on weekdays... sleep, I suspect.

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  32. Oh so cute!! Hats off to you for the photo of such unusual creatures!

    Fall is my favorite time of year, mostly because my head is firmly planted in the spring. I just adore looking through bulb catalogs, dreaming about my garden being awash in color in the spring with such beautiful flowers!

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    1. Isn't it great the way we skip winter? I have been placing Allium orders this week so my head is already in June (it's a pity the same can't be said for my toes... they are like ice today).

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  33. Nice post. I too manage to talk to plants and other life. and tend to believe they often are able to make sense of sincere communication.

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