Warm your hands on this

It’s suddenly got nippy. I don’t know why anyone should be surprised, really, it is November after all, and my poor neglected garden got a bit of attention: the ceremonial burning of the Great Bonfire Heap of Doom. Just after the ceremonial cutting of the Great Hedge of Procrastination and Argument, and just before the last ceremonial cut of the Lawns of Wildness.

(I could have spent too much time watching Game of Thrones box sets. Possibly. Something of a refuge – what? – from current happenings in the real world.)

starting

I quite like a good bonfire. Just before I went off to Uni I was chatting to our family doctor – my father was very ill, so we saw rather a lot of him – who had studied medicine at Cambridge, which is where I was heading. He’s dead now, but I remember him saying that for him Cambridge was always associated with the smell of autumn bonfires as he cycled to rugby practice. Why that should have stuck, I don’t know, but I often think of him when I have a bonfire.

After I’ve finished thinking about the neighbours, the wind direction, the fact that the hedge clippings are wet, the risk of setting the ash trees alight, the prospect of burning any bulbs that have decided to stick their silly heads above ground early…

img_5993

I do try and minimise the number of bonfires, confining myself to – generally, barring emergencies like trees coming down in a sudden and completely unplanned manner – a couple of bonfires a year, but I think this one was my first since last November. Fortunately most of the material was pretty dry, but not all of it, ahem:

img_5994

And yes, the ashes did get a bit scorched, but as they were just hanging on to their leaves by the tiniest bit, this didn’t matter a lot. And the wind even took the smoke downhill. Mostly. Where it joined the smoke from someone else’s bonfire – it was the most perfect day for setting fire to stuff, you see.

Bloody cold, though. So it was wonderful to get almost singed. Ish.

fire

Heaven only knows what the temperature was in the core. It burned up pretty quickly, we got rid of the whole heap and then some (I roamed about with my secateurs, adding stuff, since the mini inferno was consuming things so fast and so efficiently) and then we began another traditional autumn ritual.

Somewhere in there is a marker. It is there, honest it is. Isn’t it? Where did you put it, P?

hot hotCould it have melted? Even the large metal tin the marker points towards?

Fortunately not.

nom nomI don’t think there is any better food than potatoes baked in a bonfire on a cold November day. Four Michelin stars at least, though the foil may let them down in terms of elegance of presentation. Cold butter, salt, spuds so hot you burn your hands. Perfection.

And now there’s no excuse. I have to do some actual gardening.

 

Back to autumn at Cadnant

In the spirit of experimentation – and optimism, and hoping that time has worked its magic on WordPress – I’m having another go at posting about Plas Cadnant in autumn. (Er, incidentally, time had not. But it’s a Safari glitch, only affects inserting a space after a photo gallery – at which point it wipes the entire post, arrrrrrggghhhh – and everything seems to be working in Firefox. Fingers crossed. Oh, no it isn’t. It’s something to do with image galleries, but I know no fear and at least in Firefox it only wipes out the gallery.)

Right, plants. Gardens. Sunshine.

Cadnant

I had planned a second visit, just to catch the last of the garden before it shut its doors for the winter – tomorrow is the last day of opening – but work got in the way. Boo and also hiss. I’ll have to want until the snowdrops, and hope that this winter’s inevitable storms don’t undo all the fantastic repair work which has been happening at Cadnant since the devastation of last December. Personally, I think it’s going to be better than ever, and is almost there.

It was a beautiful autumn day when we visited, just perfect. A little chill in the air, but not enough to stop us having lunch outside in the sun. And some of the plants seemed to be basking too, taking in the last certain warmth.

img_5929

Of course the stone walls – the top part of the garden is surrounded by high walls as well as being broken up by lower ones – do help to retain the heat, and they also give the plants a beautiful backdrop.

I’m not really an aster fan, but I think I may be changing.

For me, asters – or to be precise, Michaelmas Daisies – are inevitably associated with the return to school and an extremely boring harvest festival to which I went under protest, and clutching a giant bunch of stinky, shedding, purple, you-guessed-its. Ergh. BUt I can see their appeal – just not the purple ones. Well, not the paler purple ones.

Another thing I have a problem with is the hydrangea. Or rather the hydrangea I had in my garden until I emitted a great shriek and finally gave in to P’s desire to mattock it out (the root was about as big as the house and the resulting new bed is metres and metres wide and deep). It did not pay its way. The ones at Cadnant, however, do. Even the paler ones like mine:

img_5943

Oh, sigh.

The woodland at Cadnant is what I really, really love, though. It’s like a tropical forest down there… no, maybe it’s more like… oh, I don’t know. But there are enormous and beautiful tree ferns and gunners, and water and huge trees and mosses and lichens and odd fungi at this time of year and remarkably few visitors (but then it was a Wednesday).

I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to attempt to add another gallery of photographs, so I’ll just leave with another few shots at full size, which neither browser seems to find objectionable. Cadnant is so worth visiting, and by the time we came out the car park – ok, field – was chocka. Somehow the garden just seems to absorb people; until emerging we had no idea it was so busy.

geranium on tree

Yes, it’s a hardy geranium growing on a tree. There were many.

Cadnant

Stunning colour combinations with the bright red and the almost acid green behind, and a farewell from Plas Cadnant (and a bit of log store envy).

Cadnant walls

Incidentally, their containers are always good – casual and relaxed, but lovely. I’ve got container envy too.

Autumn at Cadnant

Having a few problems with WordPress at the mo. Trying to write a proper post about yesterday’s visit to the wonderful Plas Cadnant, but it keeps nuking my posts and not saving drafts. So this is a holding post, as it were. A taster. I’m going away for a few days, and hopefully whatever glitch this is will be sorted when I get back. So hello, Cadnant:

Cadnant1

and farewell for a brief while…!

Please stop….

I just want the garden to stop for a bit while I catch ip with it. Please… whimper…

First, the apples. Oh my lordy, the apples. Apples to the right of them, apples to the left of them, into the valley of apples rode the six hundred … well, me and P with a load of carrier bags. We’ve had heavy apple years, we’ve had light apple years. This year we didn’t have a June drop, more of an August avalanche. Despite that, I have given away 22, yup, twenty-two, completely full, handle-stretchingly full, enormous carrier bags of these,

apples

and have made over twenty jars of chutney, and have filled the downstairs freezer with purée. AND THERE’S THE OTHER HALF OF THE TREE TO PICK.

Incidentally, I have zero idea what this tree is. They are sharpish eaters, sweetish cookers, and mature really quickly once picked. They don’t keep brilliantly, which is a shame considering I have about 4,567,000 tons.

(That is, of course, not accounting for the fact that the meadow beneath this tree was so covered with rotting and freshly fallen apples that we had to scrape them off with spades before strimming the meadow, and that the jackdaws have had so many apples that they are about as fat as dodos and can barely lift off when you go into the garden and shout at them. I swear I can hear them burping.)

And there are two other trees. The ancient cox and the second mystery tree which is a lovely shape but hardly ever produces an apple.

Wrong.

FFS

These were going to be turned into autumn jelly (with hawthorn, sloes, blackberries, rowan berries), but then a friend arrived and I said ‘Would you like some apples?’ expecting her to run away making the sign of the cross as she did so, as has become normal. But she said yes (though in all fairness she did look a bit surprised by the sheer size of the carrier bags I gave her, but hey ho).

I don’t mind, though. There’s the other half of the big tree still hanging on; for some reason the ones on the south side are slower to mature than the more northerly ones. I suspect it is down to exposure, the south side of the tree to some extent protecting the northern side from the full fury of the sea winds.

And, in the meanwhile, the autumn crocuses are springing up in the newly shorn meadow,

autumn crocuses

as are the mushrooms; the squashes are ripening; the greenhouse has been cleared and is full of logs, and we are about to start the great shifting of plant positions. When I’ve cleared a few more million apples off everything.

And I’ve forgotten the two crab apples. Those trees are laden, too. Agh……

Season of mellow whatsits

Fruitfulness, I think. Fruitfulness at flipping last – or fruitfulness which has been either overwhelming (rare: artichokes – so theatrical, and the abundance is why they are now feeding bees instead of me),

theatrical

or surprising (pears). And fruitfulness on the work front too, which is why I’ve been a bad blogger. Anyway, back to the garden.

I have an ancient pear tree; gnarled and twisted, it generally doesn’t produce much in the way of fruit but it is a gorgeous shape and has such presence in the bottom garden that removing it would leave a huge gap. It also likes to hide what pears it does produce, generally about four, sometimes as many as seven, until they either rot and fall off or are pecked off by birds. Each year we have a pear hunt (though I have finally been dissuaded from dancing down the garden singing ‘we’re going on a pear hunt’ after a certain children’s book). This year I was altered to the fact that there were pears ready by one which bounced lightly off my head as I hoed the bed beneath part of the tree.

And this year we didn’t need to hunt that much…

wowzer

One year the tree went mad and produced 44. This year we have reached the giddy heights of 57, only a few of which were damaged. They’re cookers, and I’ve already made my first batch of compote.

And I have squashes. They’re not enormous (yet),

uchi kuri squash

but they’re getting there, and there is some way to go in terms of time. I was recommended this variety – uchi kuri – by a fellow addict as one which does well round here, and I shall certainly be growing it again. Though the mildew on the plants is now something else.

The obsession with food today even got itself transferred to the flowers. As he was going out P stopped to smell one of the huge pots of lilies (mind you, you don’t really need to stop; you can probably smell them in the village when the wind is in the right direction). Oh look, he says, it’s like the chocolate on a cappuccino…

lily choc

And it is.

It’s feeling quite autumnal now. It’s chilly in the mornings and some of the local chestnuts have started to turn. My Rosa rugosa hedges are full of big fat juicy hips,

rugosa hips

though the same cannot be said for my allegedly autumn-fruiting raspberry canes. Am going out to speak to them roughly.

(And for anyone wondering how the open garden went, it went brilliantly. The weather started iffy but by the time I opened it was so sunny that everyone congregated in the shadowed part of the garden once they’d had a good nose look round. Needless to say I was so busy that I forgot to take any pics. The plant which garnered the most enquiries was this penstemon, Raven.

raven

It was looking good. Now, of course, it’s reduced to a couple of sticks, but hey ho. And I was glad it wasn’t a month later as the heleniums looked decent; now they look terrible. And slugs and snails have eaten all the dahlias bar one in the bottom garden. They are four-star bastards this year. We even found one way up in the pear tree. But for the vital day, everything looked perfect.)

Progress (garden open, 2). And digging.

This post is supposed to be wordless, as it’s Wednesday, but I’ve tried that and I can’t shut up. My word of the day, however, is AGH as I did too much gardening yesterday and my back is protesting. But progress has been made. Less than a week to go to open garden, so that’s just as well.

First, the veg patch. Still needs work, but better. The wind has damaged the squashes, despite the windbreak, but they’re coping.

Veg patch

Next, the meadow. Parts are strimmed, the paths gave been mown, but the bonfire heap still looks like Goosegog Mountain. Tough.

Meadow

Then there’s the horrible wilderness that was the capel bed. This is why my back hurts.

capel bed

I know, I know, all this ought to have been done weeks ago, and so it should. I tried to tell the weather gods, but they weren’t listening. But some lovely things have been happening, even if half the dahlias have been eaten by slugs and snails and earwigs have been snacking on what remains.

Karma Choc dahlia

This is Karma Choc, my favourite. And the Monarda in the background deserves a closer look, too, especially as it’s in its last year. Got a bit weak and scraggly, might try splitting and moving, might just get new.

Monarda

I’ve even uncovered some decent ferns. And now it’s stopped drizzling I must go out and play again. With added paracetamol.

Ferns

I’ll just leave a couple of my outlandish colour combinations, as they cheer me up (even though I’m thinking ‘why would anyone want to come and see this?’ at the moment. First, Salvia ‘Neon’ which my iPad camera wasn’t at all sure about:

Salvia neon

(the silver thyme helps to calm it down a bit), and then my mad euphorbia, rescued from a skip at Chelsea many years ago so, no, I don’t know what it is but it was a new introduction in about 1990, together with Physocarpus ‘little devil’…

Madness

And, yes, the big hedge in the background does need clipping. Another job that isn’t going to happen; freshly mown grass and edged beds will make up for a lot. Right, where’s the Deep Heat?

AGH! (Or why did I agree to this?)

All right, I know it’s been ages and ages since my last post. A) I’ve been working like a nutcase, and B) every other moment – almost – has been spent gardening. That’s because I have rather rashly agreed to open my garden. To the extremely professional garden club here, so to people who know what they’re doing. In a fortnight or so.

This gem is the one of the veg beds:

FFS

Garlic harvested, broad beans eaten. Need to weed, dig over and place squashes – in huge pots – on top. Rain keeps stopping ‘play’. Play! Ha!

How about this, then?

FMS

Whaddya mean, what is it? It’s the bonfire heap, of course, up at the top of the meadow. Oh shiiiiiiiiiittttt. But P reckons a quick strim and this will look acceptable, if not enormously better. though we might need to dispose of an entire Matto Grosso’s worth of cleavers.

Then there are other terrible areas such as behind the greenhouse, notably, and under the camellias. But my main focus, when it isn’t raining and sometimes when it is, is this:

WTF

It’s a flower bed. Oh yes it is.

HELP!

(PS: When P asked ‘are you opening the garden this year?’ and added ‘it’s quite good because it means everything gets done’ I should have hit him with the spade.)
(PPS: and yes, the letters on the image titles are indeed significant.)
(PPPS: Back in a fortnight. Assuming I live that long.)