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 'Veilchenkönigin', 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.