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October in the Walled Garden

October 21, 2011

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.

The leaves below the flowers here are from a different plant, Cranesbill.

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.

Other posts about the walled garden which you might enjoy: Late summer in the garden and November riches: silver and gold.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Toffeeapple permalink
    October 21, 2011 7:19 pm

    You still have quite a bit of colour in your garden, the Monkshood is spectacular, I wouldn’t be tempted to remove that at all, however poisonous it is. As long as your boys know it could hurt them, of course.

    You’ve had pretty miserable summer, I hope that winter doesn’t hold you in an icy grip for too long.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 21, 2011 11:35 pm

      Thanks. I haven’t minded the mediocre summer too much, really – I just hope we don’t get a dark soggy winter too!

  2. October 21, 2011 7:42 pm

    I live in constant envy of anyone with a walled garden. I want I want I want one!! Apart from being deeply romantic, they are also degrees warmer inside than outside, aren’t they? A factor which I imagine is much appreciated where you are.
    The flowers you are wondering about are Astrantias. I’ve got a wine-red one here, and would willingly send you some seed, but they are apparently devils to get to germinate unless very freshly sown. I’ve put some in seed trays to see if they germinate here – if they do, I’ll send you some mini -plants! 🙂
    Enjoy the rest of the glorious colours there, enjoy the elderberries and the blackberries with your wee one, continue to take it at a temperate pace and continue to get well again. (Sometimes its good to just be a Human Being rather than a busy Human ‘Doing’, as we often seem to end up these days!! )

    Good wishes!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 21, 2011 11:42 pm

      Oh, yes, we are so very lucky to have a walled garden, and I bet that you would be a far more knowledgeable and deserving custodian than I! It is indeed a wonderful sunspot in the summer, warm and sheltered from the prevailing wind. We can’t grow peaches or any such exotica here, but we do at least manage the occasional lunch al fresco.

      Thank you so much for telling me about Astrantias. We do have a few dark red ones too. My own very few attempts at germinating anything have usually ended in failure and have certainly never resulted in astrantiae!

      And bless you, Roz, for your strikingly wise advice. I love the idea of being a ‘human being’ rather than a ‘human doing’. I seem to have worn myself out doing nothing much at all this year, instead of just being. Deep breaths. Thank you.

  3. October 21, 2011 8:32 pm

    As always, lovely post and wonderful photos. I’ve been in that stagnant period, and just wanted to remind you to be patient with yourself. I didn’t believe the doctors when they told me writing would come back, but now, two years post-radiation, I am slowly seeing the previous ‘me’ return. One of the hardest things is letting go of all our responsibilities and expectations, and just breathing and healing. I never knew there was an internal healing that had to happen outside of the physical healing. I think these strolls are a wonderful place for that to happen though. Personally, I just realized I’m still waiting for summer to slow down enough to enjoy it, and it’s gone!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 21, 2011 11:50 pm

      Thank you, Lisa. Your support means a lot. It’s good to hear that you are finding your old self again, slowly slowly. Goodness, you’re right though; it is hard to just be, as Roz advises (above). Sometimes we need someone else to tell us, don’t we! I wish I were better at it, for my family’s sake as well as my own. You and I are lucky, though, in having beautiful places to walk in, which bring healing in themselves – even without much of a summer!

  4. October 22, 2011 3:48 pm

    Well I echo the other comments here, and it’s advice I need to take myself too – to remember it’s ok to be a human “being” as well as a human “doing”! I get so frustrated when I don’t have the energy to keep going! One reason I quite like Winter is because I can’t go outdoors so much and there’s sometimes nothing for it but to curl up in the evening with a good book 😉 Not so easy for you with young ones around though….

    Love the pictures of the walled garden. Your home is such a magical place, thanks for sharing it with us! I well remember picking blackberries as a child – and no they rarely made it home for mum’s blackberry jam or pie!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 25, 2011 5:36 pm

      Thanks, Sian. I’m not surprised that you get frustrated sometimes, when your physical energy can’t keep up with your mental energy: I know that I would be fuming! Funnily enough, I like long winter evenings for the same reason as you. When the sun shines we feel that we ‘ought’ to be out and about, when sometimes what you really need is to curl up. I bet Button would agree. 😉

  5. October 23, 2011 7:08 pm

    Once again, thanks for the pixs and the sense of seasonal beauty and calm. As a child I wandered the forests and fields, but in coastal plain now. Miss the fall crunching. Also liked the walled garden…like secret worlds…(always better with voices of small children in the air…fairies probably agree). Enjoy the fall!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 25, 2011 5:39 pm

      Oh, you are spot on about the fairies, I’m sure they love the children in the garden! There is, in fact, a corner of the garden where there are fairies hiding in the trees. They move about so that small children have to re-count them and discover new ones…a bit of enchantment is important in everyone’s lives, but especially in children’s.

  6. October 23, 2011 7:37 pm

    Your gardens and grounds look so wonderful, DB, and you share them so generously with us in your posts and pictures.

    Be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much too soon. When I retired 4 years ago, 18 months after my second lot of cancer, it took me a full year even to begin to get back to somewhere near my usual level of energy and alertness. I did get there in the end, but it seemed frustratingly slow at times.

    PS I’m now up-to-date with your blog again and have had the most wonderful couple of hours catching up with it. 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 25, 2011 10:45 pm

      Oh, thank you. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to hear the wise words and experience of others, for all that I wouldn’t wish illness on anyone.

      It’s a pleasure to have you back in blogland!

  7. October 24, 2011 9:26 pm

    What a wonderful community you have created here, DB. Loved the peace of your post and the wise words of your commenters. A human “doing” – love it – I’m going to use that! x

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 25, 2011 10:47 pm

      I don’t think that I can take any credit for it whatsoever, but yes, there are some really splendid people out there in the blogosphere/ real world! I am glad that you have joined them here.

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