Friday, 26 September 2014

Gardening Rituals …

For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.
Edwin Way Teale

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It’s a busy old time of year.  Now that I have finished all the winter preserving it is time to  get the garden into shape.  It is sad to see the garden slowly withering away but there are annual rituals to perform that will bring it back to life next year.

Just as at Christmas time families do the same things every year, so this applies to gardeners too.    It seems the most natural thing to start to prepare the garden against the onset of winter; to plants bulbs for a fine spring display; to collect seeds from dying plants to save in envelopes; taking cuttings from favourite plants – just in case.

The third stage of the gardening year has begun.  Decisions have been made – bulbs have been bought – planning what goes with what and where they will be planted for the best effect.

Thought has gone into what needs to be cut back – what needs to be moved or split up – what needs to be removed altogether.  It is an ongoing  thing – and when winter finally comes we can breathe again and relax a little – knowing there is little else we can do but sit back and wait.

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And whilst the weather still holds we work our way through our list of jobs to be done moving round the garden on automatic pilot – because we know the rituals by now, every year the same but slightly different – each year you learn a little more – put right your mistakes – and learn a little more again. 

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I found these Chrysanthemums at our local nursery – buckets of colour in beautiful shades of autumn I chose these marmalade colours but could have had russet or bright pink or deep purple – beautiful – then I wondered why on earth haven’t  I grown some in my garden – my grandfather used to grow prize-winning ones – they were his pride and joy – although we rarely saw the blooms as they were all covered in brown paper bags – to keep the earwigs at bay.  Chrysanthemums associated with garage flowers or those short  bush types only found in garden centres.  They just don’t seem to be fashionable any more.  Such a pity I think.

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How are you getting on with your autumn rituals?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Breezes Taste of Apple Peel …

 "September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret."
-   Alexander Theroux, 1981

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The autumn equinox will soon be upon us – September has flicked her skirts and laughed in the face of dreary August.  She has showered us with sunshine, and one last lingering look at summer.  For that I am grateful.

"Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh so mellow
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain so yellow
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a young and a callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember
Then follow--follow, oh-oh." 
Try to Remember, Lyrics by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt

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The garden has been filled with bees and butterflies and all flying things  settling to collect pollen whilst there is time.  Soon the flowers will wither and seed heads will form ready to scatter themselves over the newly dug earth and continue to delight and surprise next year when the earth warms and spring bulbs emerge.

"Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields,
The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth
And you walk under the red light of fall
The scent of fallen apples, the dust of threshed grain
The sharp, gentle chill of fall.
Here as we move into the shadows of autumn
The night that brings the morning of spring
Come to us, Lord of Harvest
Teach us to be thankful for the gifts you bring us ..."
Autumn Equinox Ritual

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The fruit harvest has been good – freezers and jars and trays have been filled with the bounty.  Farmers in their trusty tractors have been trundling up and down the fields bringing in hay and grain - and foragers have been out and about with bags and baskets collecting berries, apples, sloes and damsons from the hedgerows – soon the mushrooms will show their faces as the season gets cooler and the mists   lay across the fields in a ghostly manner.

"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.
"
-   John Updike, September

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The year is slowly  passing with one last hurrah for summer and the race is on to complete all those gardening jobs that have amassed – saying goodbye to all those annual flowers that have done a sterling job in blooming all summer – emptying the container plantings and replacing with spring bulbs – gardening seems to be about keeping one step ahead  - so much to be done, so little time to do it in.  Change is coming – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – but soon.

"the air is different today
the wind sings with a new tone
sighing of changes
coming
the harvest gathered
a flower, a nut
some mead, and bread
a candle and a prayer
returning the fruits
in thanksgiving
to the grove
and receiving
it's blessing
again"
-   Rhawk, Alban Elfed

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The nights are chill and fires have been lit, log piles replenished and kindling collected.  The kitchen is filled with the scent of sauces bubbling on the stove – windfall apples, bruised and battered, and cherry tomatoes for pasta.

It is gloomy this morning – grey and misty – I sit by the open window and hear a robin in the tree outside – in the distance I can hear the sound of the hunt master blowing his horn and the pack of dogs barking and yipping as they collect to swarm across the fields excited to begin the chase.  A sure sign that autumn is upon us.

Monday, 15 September 2014

It’s Good To Be Back …

You would think that going on holiday would be a restful experience wouldn’t you?  Well, I am living proof that it is very tiring.  The weather was so lovely that we got up at ‘the crack of sparrows’ to make the most of each sun-filled day.  Visiting much-loved places, walking, walking, walking – my poor feet.  Such a good week – but now we’re back home – the washing machine has been going non-stop and the garden badly needs attention.

My neighbour managed to keep the greenhouse going but the rest of it – containers, hanging baskets etc. look the worse for wear – she did her best I am sure – but at least I can start thinking about a good clear up now and bulb planting can begin in earnest.

What a jam-packed week we had.  The sun shone all day every day.  We walked on coastal paths, through woods, across heath land, sandy beaches, pebbley beaches,  discovered places we hadn’t visited before, saw  lots of wild life, people swimming in the sea, high tides, super moons –  ate delicious sea food and drank crisp white wines and local beers – visited nature reserves – in fact, we had a ball.  This post is going to be photo heavy – s0 I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

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Lagoon at Titchwell Bird Reserve

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Today it is raining – so that’s my plans for a full days gardening scuppered – guess I’ll just have to  take it slow, get into gear and ease myself back into the old routine  – it’s good to be back – I need the rest!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Missing You Already

It’s a funny thing – but when I think about leaving home for one of our little trips to the coast – I get kind of homesick even before we have left.  At the weekend we shall be packing up the car and heading off into the wild blue yonder – breathing in the salty air, feeling the sand between our toes and watching the surf rolling in.  Taking walks in pine forests, watching sea birds swoop and dive, walking coastal paths – eating food prepared by someone else for a change – jaws dropping at the wonder of it all.

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And yet – I shall miss my little home and my slightly bedraggled garden.  One last look around, taking pictures of all that is dear – then driving off without a backward glance.  For when we return it will all be just where we left it – the garden requiring attention – the house a little dustier – mail piled up behind the front door – just as it is good to get away – it will be good to be back.

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See you in a weeks’ time when maybe we can chat about the splendours of autumn and loving these mellow September days.

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