Tag Archives: autumn

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…

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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.

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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:

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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……

Tree following: November, and farewell to the hawthorn

Oh boy, is it November or what…

I looked at the weather forecast and decided to photograph my tree a little early. About a week early, in fact, and it’s just as well I did. The wind is storm force (Force 9, to be specific, though it is lessening a little); the rain is horizontal and the clouds are so low, despite the wind, that I can see about a hundred metres. Lovely.

A week ago it was a completely different story:

haws

I don’t expect any of these are still there now. They may be in England, they may have been blown as far as Norway, but I’m pretty certain they won’t be here. I’m not going up to check, mind – the little car park I use was so squishy a day ago that it might as well be under water (it probably is, now) and the path I would take as an alternative to driving is mud. Sorry, that should be Mud. It definitely deserves a cap M. And this is essentially why, although I’ve enjoyed ‘following’ my hawthorn, I will pick a tree a little closer to follow next year.

Anyway, here is my best-beloved, looking lovely in the sun of 1 November:

hawthorn and dolmen

When I started following the hawthorn I said that the tree’s association with the dolmen did seem to give it a special significance, and I had more confirmation of that. This was, of course, the day after 31 October, Halloween, Samhain, call it what you will – and in the foreground you can just see a blackish area between a few stones, directly below the white spot on the capstone, right at the edge of the shot. It was the remains of a fire, evidently recent because there was just a hint of warmth to it. Not surprising, though hawthorns are more traditionally associated with Beltane. But I expect the tomb is the draw… or, of course, it could just have been fellow archaeologists up there to check any solar alignment.

So what has changed since my last despatch (I didn’t make October as I was away)? Well, there are now no leaves whatsoever, and the haws are patchy – some parts are still covered; others have none, or only very shrivelled ones. Exposure again: I spent some time just leaning against the hawthorn this time and realised, for the first time, that the pressure of the wind can be felt quite strongly, even on the thick branches – and that’s why it has developed so many trunks and roots, I guess.

There are signs of a lot of life in the tree – or perhaps that should be sign of a lot of spiders using it. The low angle of the sun really emphasised that, though it was very difficult to show just how bedecked the tree was with single filaments and whole webs:

spider webs

The sheep are back, rather more obvious and considerably more noisy:

BAAAAAAAAA

They’re also considerably less flighty – possibly because the lambs are now huge, possibly because they’ve got used to me (don’t laugh; sheep can recognise a significant number of humans – there’s been academic research into this. Really). Once again, though, I noticed how much more battered this hawthorn was than its neighbours and decided to take a brief tour around some of its companions.

A little further down the hill is an Iron Age hut circle. There are hawthorns which guard the entrance:

entrance hawthorns

and they’ve been stripped of leaves too, despite being in a more shetered position. But notice the oak at the top? Here’s another shot of the whole thing:

oak

All the oaks are like this, still with leaves. I’m intrigued, mind, by the fact the upper leaves are still green; without really understanding in detail, I’d have instinctively expected it to be the other way round. Particularly when you consider the exposure element (oh, yes – the dip in the middle, behind the oak, is the hut circle – it’s huge, would probably have housed an extended family plus some animals).

Quite a few of the trees are ivied, and when I say ‘ivied’ I mean it with a capital letter again:

ivy

And the tree still lives.

The gorse is just beginning to flower again, in parts,

gorse

though a lot of it is being cleared by the farmers. It had got very overgrown, and it will be back, and so I can’t really lament the extensive cutting back – especially as it is making it a lot easier to see some of the extensive archaeology up here. I’d not really realised how much the gorse had grown up until I took another look at the aerial photograph in the March tree-following post. You can still see grass in that, amongst the gorse. Until the hacking back, you could barely see any; just gorse, and you couldn’t push through it. So what is there, underneath all that? An irregular field system which is probably Neolithic, as is the dolmen; lots of clearance cairns and burnt mounds, some of which are very old, Bronze Age; some old terracing, maybe Neolithic; an old trackway, ditto; traces of huts, both prehistoric and Roman period; lots and lots of medieval stuff. And  the old pack-horse routes, of course.

It’s a wonderful landscape, a scheduled ancient monument, and I’m very glad I decided to visit it regularly to follow this tree. But visiting a tree a bit further away – even though it’s not exactly miles and miles away – has also been problematic; I’ve not observed the hawthorn as frequently as I did the birch from last year, for the simple reason that I could pop out of the kitchen door and be at the birch within, oh, twenty steps. So I will go back to following an even more local tree next year. What, or where, I’ve not decided (but it probably won’t involve encounters with feral goats, unlike this one).

And in the meanwhile, farewell sheepies:

baaaaaaaa2

I’m up here a lot, so I know I’ll be back. But I definitely got more out of tree following my birch -as a tree following exercise, that is, as opposed to archaeology following, plant hunting, goat avoiding, lichen photographing, mud squelching… oh, hang on, I think that last one would apply with the birch at the mo. Hm.

Apparently some people in this small country are enjoying sun and t-shirt weather, right now. All I can say is this is coming your way. Get your wellies out. And you’ll need vests.

PS: Huge thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy who has hosted the tree following meme for the last three years, and hello to Pat at The Squirrelbasket, who is the new host. It’s brilliant.

Winter jobs (sigh)

All right, I admit it. It’s not that far away. The garden is covered in leaves, logs are chopped and stored in part of the greenhouse and I haven’t seen Next Door’s Cat for a bit (he’s gone to ground, possibly in a duvet, possibly at his actual owners, though not necessarily). We’ve had the semi-annual Bonfire of Irritation though this time, owing to a lack of planning on my part, without the equally traditional baked potatoes on which to burn our hands.

Time to do the rounds of the garden and work out what needs doing. Lots, is the answer. This is the point I feel a sudden urge to run away to sea.

There’s this:

ergh

which is allegedly a flower bed. It’s right in front of the house and contains hardy geraniums, a huge osteospermum, a parahebe and various other things. In actual fact it’s a couch grass bed, and I’m going to break with organic gardening to try and deal with it. I’ve been trying to be organic for the past ahem, ahem years – about ten? – and I’ve given up. I’ve tried mulch, I’ve tried black plastic, I’ve tried everything (though I did refuse to let P play with a flamethrower, citing health and safety and the desire to still have somewhere to live). It’s right in front of the house so it drives me bonkers every time I walk by. In the past I’ve wrestled with ground elder, I’ve had a terrible time with convolvulus, horsetail has seriously pissed me off – but none of them compare with fecking couch fecking grass. Fecking.

And there’s this:

the iris bed

This is the iris bed. Oh yes it is.

And this is also the reason why it will no longer be an iris bed. The problem, however, isn’t just that it looks good for about a month and then spends the rest of the year looking as though it’s had a rough Saturday night and just staggered downstairs for a Red Bull. The real problem is that when you confine one plant to a particular bed, disease and bugs can really get their teeth in to your precious darlings. And they predictably have.

So it’s time to sort out the good rhizomes, throw most of them out, and replant. They’ll probably go into pots first. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but I’ve always misbehaved with my irises and they’ve always been good – until I decided to clag them all in one bed, that is. They originally ended up here because it was the one place where they could really sunbathe, but since I’ve had a couple of trees down – one deliberately, one not – there’s much more light elsewhere in the garden.

Like on this bed, the bed at the gable end. South facing; huge climbing rose on the wall, plus a Parthenocissus henryii which has finally taken off.

gable end bed

Here the problem isn’t couch grass. Yet. It’s Japanese anemones. Oh, and Geranium macrorrhizum album which I’ve finally got under (nominal) control, but which constantly threatens to run amok. There are yellow flags in here and they seem to love it – strangely; it’s a bit dry – so this is one of the places where my saved irises are going. In fact they were here originally but failed to thrive because the bed was in deep shade. Not any more.

Oh yes, I also have a path to salvage:

path. honest

I do. It’s under those lavenders.

They are now over ten years old, and last winter one of them took itself off during a storm (literally: I saw it further down the hill, about to blow over the main road, when I went down to the post office). They’re magnificent, but they are on their very last legs. Cuttings have been taken, cuttings have died; more cuttings have been taken, cuttings have damped off, but I’m having one last go. I don’t mind buying new plants if I have to, but they won’t go here. I’m going to seize the chance to rework this bit of the garden, which one expert gardening friend said now ‘looked as though it belonged to a different garden’. It does; since I planted the path huge areas of lawn have turned into beds. Curving beds. The path’s staying put – it was repaired with such dedication that if the house is washed away in a tsunami the path will remain – but I’ll soften its edges. Or rather P will.

But it’s not all dead leaves and planning. It’s dahlias suddenly deciding that they are going to flower after all:

pretty pretty

Thanks goodness for that. I had to have something fab!

Summer’s back, in white and blue…

Oh, this has been a silly year. And, just to top off the most peculiar growing season, summer appears to be back. Except at night, mind. But that does mean that the garden is having a final flash of colour, though intriguingly there’s been a bit of a colour shift.

I normally associate this time of year with oranges and reds (heleniums – over) and yellows (rudbeckia – thinking about flowering but still not sure). Oh, I’ve got some, yes: marigolds and (I suppose they count) grasses, and for the reds a surprisingly late Bishop of Llandaff dahlia. But I’ve gone white:

echinacea

with a good big clump of echinacea which is quite unusual for me. (Yes, I know they’ve been chewed. Everything’s been chewed.)

I’m putting their success down to the fact that I went berserk in one of my post-work evening forays into the garden this summer and ripped out all the sidalacea which has been running riot. I didn’t know this would improve life for the echinacea; it was a happy accident, but a fortuitous one. I learned at our village garden club that echinaceas like air and light at the base (thanks to Christine ffoulkes Jones of Hall Farm Nursery for that info). They’ve certainly got that now that the ******* sidalacea is dust.

The cosmos have finally decided to flower,

cosmos and bee

and are attracting a lot of attention from the bees, even if this one didn’t hang around to be photographed in situ. The sheer number of cosmos partly accounts for the whitening of the garden, but I really wouldn’t have minded in the slightest if some of them had decided to flower earlier, honestly I wouldn’t.

The garlic chives are also late, but they’re providing a nice allium note in what is really autumn, so I don’t object in the slightest…

chives

and nor do I object to another late performer, the agapanthus. We split a huge clump last year, brutally hacking it into four and leaving one quarter where it was. Three of the quarters flowered at roughly – very roughly – the normal time; one didn’t. It’s only just gone over.

agapanthus

It’s the transplanted quarter which is probably in the most sheltered position, or so I thought. But in actual fact we had some vile east winds earlier in the season, and this is in the direct line of fire (look at the pittosporum on the left; that’s suffered a bit too). That is the only possible reason I can come up with, but it’s probably rubbish.

And then there’s a random blue which I love:

chicory

Chicory – just came up spontaneously. And I’d love it a lot more if it wasn’t so huge and didn’t sprawl everywhere, but it is a most beautiful colour so I daresay I can forgive it.

But the most notable plants in the garden at the moment are the actaeas, aka cimicifugas. It’s not just the sheer height (this one is almost as tall as the giant hedge which makes it about 2.5 metres),

actaea

it’s also the scent and the sheer presence. Even if mine are not as completely covered in butterflies as one in Karen’s (The Artist’s Garden) was last night:

karen's butterflies

Or at least if it has been, I’ve not noticed it. Direct sunlight would seem to be the key to butterfly madness (I’ve got bees, and so has Karen), so I shall go and watch mine closely in the middle of the day. Fingers crossed!