Wednesday, 31 October 2012

End Of Month View ~ October 2012


A repeat of last October's weather was sadly not on the cards but on the whole the month passed with less rainfall than we have had for several months. In fact we even managed the odd consecutive couple of days without any of the wet stuff! It would be premature to celebrate as with winter not far away the garden and allotment are both absolutely sodden.

Starting with the allotment the good news is that I think that my plot passed muster when it was reviewed - I say think because you do not actually get formal notification to inform you. Anyway no more letters have come my way so I am highly relieved. Hopefully the elements will be kinder to us in the next growing year. I've tidied up bar from removing the debris of the courgettes and sweet corn, which will soon be assigned to the compost heap. I have garlic ready to plant which I'm hoping to get in this weekend. I also plan to sow some broad beans in pots and overwinter them at home before taking them up to plant at the allotment come spring. The two strawberry beds which we cleared are already sprouting forth fresh couch grass growth, so will need to be watched over with an eagle eye. We have decided that two strawberry beds is one too many so will be downsizing. I've been pouring over the catalogues and books making notes of varieties that I would like to grow. I am now at the stage of shortlisting the candidates.

The main jobs to do on the to do list overwinter is to clean and tidy the shed as well as to do more laying down of membrane and wood bark as the original stuff we put down has worn thin. We also plan to some more rabbit proofing - one of the local factories fills skips with surplus plywood boards which are kindly left for the public to help themselves to free of charge. Just right for what we want to do. 

Back to the garden where I'm still debating which trees to plant in the newly created gabion garden area. No orders have been placed yet though so I will need to move sharply to get them planted this autumn. I also need to plant the bulbs which have been arriving in the post as well as occasionally coming home with me. I am determined to get them all in by the end of November. On day last last week I went through all the pots in the cold frames and inspected everything which will overwinter there. I am so glad that I did as in doing so I discovered a myriad not only of slugs but also their beady glistening eggs, which would have morphed into trouble in the spring. Now the plan is to move round the corner and tackle the greenhouse which is a job that I would prefer to do on a dry day. 

If I stand at the back of the greenhouse in one direction I look out at the ash tree, which you can see part of in the above photo. We inherited it when we moved here and reckon that it is probably at least 60 years old and and at least a good 60 feet tall. As well as providing shelter for birds and other wildlife it provides us with a good degree of privacy from the neighbours behind and above us. Both Veg Plotting and Wellywoman have recently written excellent posts about the ash tree fungus disease, which already present in Europe, has now been identified affecting ash trees in East Anglia and which could potentially threaten up to eighty million ash trees in the U.K. I am sure that there will be many people keeping a close vigil over their ash trees in the coming months. I will report back here on the state of our tree.

On a happier note I am sure that there is much good news to share, plans in the making and great new plantings in over at other 'End Of The Month Views', kindly hosted each month by Helen over at ''The Patient Gardener's Weblog'.

Monday, 29 October 2012

All Booked Up


'Fashionable gardens bore me', Henry says patiently, 'with their stranglehold on growth and natural beauty. Fashionable gardens are everything about order and symmetry and nothing about plants. They are hard, measured battlegrounds against nature, as though it was the enemy. Sometimes it is even enough for whole areas to be eradicated of foliage and filled with coloured sand or gravel, and triumphal gaudy flags, and emblems set about the site, as markers of the inexorable march of civilization eating up the wilderness.' - Jane Borodale.

The to be read pile runneth away from me at the moment, not only a veritable toppling mountain of magazines but several books too. Somehow or other, it seems that the majority of novels that I reserved via the local library have conspired to be ready for collection at the same time. There is a but a three week window to read most of these, as other library users are in the queue, so it's going to be a case of some serious concentration plus a touch of speed reading. The onset of colder days and longer nights will no doubt help. As a consequence though gardening related reading material, has for the time being drifted towards the bottom of the pile but there are goodies lying in store, once I have cleared the library books. Earlier this year I wrote "I am going to resist buying any more books until I have read those already in my possession. The bookshelves are groaning and are in need of a good prune". Well I have risen well on the whole to this challenge but I must confess that temptation reared its ugly head. Himself spoilt me with some Amazon gift vouchers last Christmas so during the course of the year I have treated myself to the odd booky treat including a recent purchase of ~

Jane Borodale's recent historical novel 'The Knot',which is currently most favourably priced at £6.00 for a hardback edition through Amazon. The book's central character is the botanist Henry Lyte, of Lytes Carey Manor in Somerset. The year is 1565 and Henry is occupied with not only translating a Dutch herbal, but also in planning and planting an intricate herb garden, which will feature a knot at its heart. It is against this background that "old family troubles start to worm their way up towards the light, potentially threatening everything that Henry holds dear.

Of course I've had to have a quick peek. At some four hundred or so pages long my initial flicking through impressions are most positive so I can't wait to make inroads into this book. 'The Knot' is also available in paperback, surprisingly at a higher price as well as in Kindle format - again at a slightly higher price than the current price for the hardback. I will try to return with my thoughts on the book once I have read it but it may not be for a while. I have already made a note to purchase this as a seasonal gift for at least one friend who like me is interested in both plants and history. What are you reading at the moment or plan to read to read over the coming months? All suggestions gardening related or otherwise are welcome.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

'The Magic Apple Tree'


"I love the wild days of autumn, the west winds that rock the apple tree and bring down the leaves and fruit and nuts in showers ............. Soon perhaps over one wild night, the last of the leaves on the magic apple tree will be sent swirling away, and on the bare branches will hang here and there the last few, shrivelling fruits. and finally those, too, will thud to the ground and burst open and rot gradually into the soil, or else be taken by the birds, getting hungrier, now that the cold has come, and on that morning whenever it comes, the autumn will be over" ~ Susan Hill.

Today as many of you know is Apple Day. This event which is celebrated mainly in the UK was the idea of the organisation Common Ground. The first Apple Day was celebrated in 1990 in Covent Garden, London but since then has spread so that events celebrating the apple are held across the country. The day not only celebrates the wonderful variety of apples that grow in this country - over 2,000 varieties but also the richness of locality and regional identity.

Here the day has dawned with some appropriate misty murkiness lurking in the air, which promises to give rise to autumnal sunshine later. We will be celebrating Apple Day with an apple dish of some description tonight, using up a kind gift of a bag of apples from our neighbours. I'm slightly under the weather at the moment with the dreaded lurgy, so do not think that we will be attending any events. Instead I think that I will curl up later and revisit one of my favourite books 'The Magic Apple Tree - A Country Year' by Susan Hill. From her home Moon Cottage she sets out to record "the sights and smells, the people, gardens, animals, births, festivals and deaths that the changing seasons in the small Oxfordshire community". The book follows the seasons, describing not only the yearly journey of the gnarled old apple tree that grows in the garden but also observations and musings on what is happening elsewhere in the garden and the village beyond. There are several seasonal recipes, including one for a delicious sounding walnut and apple tea- bread - maybe that is one that I should try out later if I have all the ingredients to hand.

Throughout the book there are exquisite black and white engravings by John Lawrence.

The book was published by Penguin Books in 1982. Sadly as far as I can gather is no longer in print but it is possible to pick up second hand copies - well worth tracking one down if you do not already have this in your bookshelves.

The illustration from the cover of the book is Samuel Palmer's  work entitled 'The Magic Apple Tree'.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ~ October 2012


Just the odd photo from me today to celebrate the October blooms in my garden. This morning was peppered with shopping and drizzle and looking at the just photographed sky there could be more of the wet stuff on the horizon. Everything is looking decidedly bedraggled now although there are still flowers about amongst them astrantias, various hardy geraniums, penstemons, the deadly 'Yellow Peril', nicotiana 'Lime Green', Swan River daisies, cosmos bippanatus 'Purity', verbena bonariensis, dahlia 'Bishop's Children', scutellaria and a couple of pale yellow daisy type flowers whose names escape me at present. Nothing is at its peak but they are winding down slowly as autumn progresses but one or two are still in full flow ~ 


Above an old favourite  - erigeron karvinskianus or Mexican fleabane which is dotted about the north facing courtyard in front of the house. The white flowers age to pink. This is the subject of contention ever year as himself sees it as a weed and I am convinced that he has tried to kill it off, luckily without success. It is one of the longest lasting flowers in the garden and will go on until the first really sharp frosts. There is some question about its tenderness but here in the north west of England it has survived for years, even coming through the harsh winter that we had a couple of years ago. Maybe it picks up on heat thrown out from the house or it self seeds each year - whatever I'm not complaining.


I don't know the name of this hardy fuschia which is the palest of pinks. I plucked a few cuttings years ago from a bush that was overhanging onto a pavement . Since then it has grown into a monster and is in line for some serious pruning. 


Finally I'm going to cheat with one that I took earlier  a couple of years earlier in fact - aster 'Little Carlow' which is bearing a myriad of little flowers at the allotment just now. It has come into flower later than usual but other than that it does not seem to be affected by the wet summer. It attracts both bees and butterflies and a couple of divisions  headed to the bee keeping area earlier this year. Must see how they are doing next time I'm at the plot. 

I will be putting the kettle on later for a cuppa before heading over to
May Dreams Gardens, where Carol kindly hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day each month. A most pleasant way to while away some time which invariably sees my wish list growing and growing.

Monday, 8 October 2012

From The Confessional


A fanfare of trumpets, a roll of drums, a celebration was called for. What for you may well ask, to which the answer was to mark a rare event this year - a weekend without rain! I set about to make the most of it spending as much time I possibly could outdoors. Sunday was especially productive as I had no other demands on my time. It was a day that really reflected '"the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" - swirls of morning fog slowly giving way to a still and sunny afternoon. The mercury did not rise to any great heights but it was the ideal weather for pottering. I spent some time in the 'Not Waving But Drowning' border dividing a too big for its space 'Solomon's Seal', thinning out a boisterous clump of geranium phaeum and contemplating other moves. Then on to the greenhouse and the area behind it where I made a start on clearing away some of the debris before it can haunt me in the spring. The day was punctuated by one or two discoveries which made me hang my head in shame, namely ;

  • A tray of stunted, overcrowded nicotiana mutablis seedlings which had never got pricked out. The fact that they still survived is a testament to the amount of rain we have had this summer. If you have not come across this before it is a most attractive half hardy annual with lightly scented flowers, that subtly change colour. The flowers are initially white, then change to a dusty rose before morphing into a deeper magenta, so that with time the plant bears flowers of all three colours. Now this has survived overwinter here before, although not last winter, so I have prised the seedlings apart and planted a dozen of the sturdiest ones into individual pots. They will overwinter in an unheated greenhouse so may survive my neglect.
  • A clump of brunnera which was lying on the ground behind the greenhouse. This had been dug up in early spring but for some reason had never been potted up. Again the abundant wet stuff must have kept it going. It is now has its roots in a pot - whether that will be too much of a shock to the system remains to be seen.
  • Perhaps the worst horticultural crime of the year was the pot containing a physocarpus opulifolius 'Lady In Red', which I had tried for size in the 'Not Waving But Drowning' border. You know what it is like when you are not sure whether a plant is the right place or not. Well I took so long in deciding that the poor plant has rooted into the ground. A careful extraction is now required. 
Finally I have to finish by admitting that those happy and healthy looking squashes you can see at the top of this post did not come from the allotment plot. Much as I would like to take credit I must be truthful - they were bought from a supermarket this morning ~

 
Give credit to our local branch of Morrisons - they stock a good variety of British grown squashes most autumns. As the season progresses I'm sure that they will have other varieties in store. I did grow squashes from seed and planted them but whilst mine festered the plants that I gave to my allotment neighbour thrived. He has taken great pleasure in regularly showing me their progress but has told me that at least one squash has my name on it.

What about you - have you got any guilty horticultural secrets that you would like to share with the rest of us? 
      

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A Poem For October


Today is National Poetry Day. The theme for 2012 is stars ~
"Well it's a marvelous night for a Moondance, 
 With the stars up above in your eyes
 A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of the October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush"
~ 'Moondance',Van Morrison