October in the Walled Garden
With the advent of the first ground frost here this week and the first snow on the hills, autumn is drawing on apace. More than ever this year, I feel as if the months are rushing down the plughole with nothing much to show for it. In 2010, I spent so much of the year fighting to recover from my head injury: this year, I seem to have stagnated rather, perhaps in reaction to all of that. Anyway, while I work on regaining my equilibrium, the soggy summer has become a soggy autumn and, if I don’t look out, it will have become a snowy winter before I’ve noticed. Here, then, are some reflections on the beauty of October, for it is surely one of the most beautiful months; at least as it was before this week’s weather took a turn for the worse.
A few days ago, my younger son and I had a wander around the walled garden, looking for the last of the apples and pears. There has been a relatively small yield this year: the apples were all finished, but there were still a few pears to be picked from the espaliered pear tree against the west-facing wall.
We found some colourful snapdragons to pick too. (I prefer this name to their Latin name, Antirrhinum, which I think sounds like some nasty affliction: ‘Ooh, me antirrhinums are playing up something terrible today!’)
Most other plants in the long borders have finished flowering now, but the bumble bees were still busy in the monkshood. Monkshood, or wolfsbane, is a member of the Aconite family, and is so terrifyingly poisonous that I think we should probably remove it for next year, for all that it does make a beautiful splash of late colour.
This little papery lace flower (below) is a favourite of mine for mixed posies, but I’ve never known its name. Can anyone enlighten my ignorance, please? It dries quite well too, so is decorative in both autumn and winter.
We wandered on down the long borders.
Half way down, we were happy to find a few late berries on the blueberry bushes. One of the most vivid splashes of autumn colour is provided by the leaves of the blueberries before they fall.
Another gleam of enamel-like colour comes from the rose bushes, with the hips now at their brightest.
In the kitchen garden, the remaining lettuce has bolted – and I’m sorry, but lettuce soup doesn’t do much for any of us, although I’ve often tried – and the last few courgettes have become giant marrows, spongy and tasteless. There are rows of cheerful chrysanthemums to cut, though, to brighten dark corners of the house,
and still plenty of juicy blackberries to enjoy. I like them best cooked in a pie or a crumble. If I’m picking them with my wee boy, however, most of them don’t get further than the distance between the bush and his tummy, and we return to the house with fingers and mouths stained purple. But that, of course, is one of the many pleasures of autumn.