Monday, 24 September 2012

What is this life if full of care

We have no time to stand and stare.

So wrote W.H. Davies of Autobiography of a Supertramp fame.

Time to stand and stare

The remainder of the poem is very much doggerel but the first two lines have always strongly appealed to me, so much so that when I ordered my garden bench from Blue Gentian Crafts, and realised I could have a phrase or saying engraved on to the back , I knew instantly what to  choose (complete with book and wine glass!)

After a wonderfully inspiring break on Holy Island, thanks to friends Anne an d Erica from Alnwick, followed by a lovely weekend with lots of sun and thus the opportunity to catch up on autumnal allotment digging and home garden tasks – including weather proofing the garden furniture again – the horrid wet and windy weather today has prompted me to catch up on blogging and soup making to use up over-ripe greenhouse tomatoes and some of the home-grown basil – yummy!

Sun rising over Holy Island

Today’s weather prompts a perfect opportunity to think about drying hydrangea heads as the flowers have just begun to change colour and the stamens are beginning to wither.  Mine are pink and blue fading to a turquoise green. My cousin has glorious deep red hydrangea and I usually manage to acquire a few to add variety. Pop the flowers in an upright vase, add a couple of inches of water. Once this water has been used up, the flowers can then be left to dry naturally. They look wonderful piled into straw baskets and can also be sprayed silver or gold and used in Christmas flower arrangements.

Golden rod and bronze fennel

The golden rod is still in flower and its distinctive yellow colour is a welcome addition to the bottom border. It was believed that secret treasure could be found where golden rod grew and that, in a diviner’s hands, it had the power to uncover hidden underground springs.

Sadly neither fortune nor water have revealed themselves in Pablo’s garden, but the golden glory of this flower at this time of year is treasure indeed.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Shasta daisies with greenhouse in the background
Gardeners throughout the North East would agree that 2012 has been one of the worse years ever for vegetable growers. On the allotment rabbits ate the early peas and broad beans then pigeons nibbled most of the brassicas. The sweet corn refused to swell and the beetroot is almost non-existent.

Sadly, slugs ate every one of my glorious sunflower plants which usually stand guard at the entrance to my plot, charming all visitors with their happy,smiley  faces, yet the insistent Jerusalem artichokes are rampaging determinedly across the allotment landscape.

In the greenhouse tomatoes are desperately in need of sunshine to ripen their trusses and peppers and chillies are sulking and refusing to ripen. Cucumbers have resisted mildew but haven’t produced as many fruits as in previous years, even so, nothing beats the tasty crunch of freshly harvested cucumbers eaten with home-baked bread and greenhouse tomatoes – delicious.

All-female cucumbers

Despite the difficult year, the Bishop Auckland Hospital Garden Club held its inaugural show. Some classes were poorly represented – especially onions, both those grown from seed and from sets – but participants put on a wonderful show regardless. The room was bedecked with splendid tied bunches of dahlias in a myriad of colours, autumnal flower arrangements, delicate button holes and gleaming jars of fruit jams and chutneys.

£200 was raised for The Stroke Unit at Bishop Auckland Hospital so well done and sincere thanks to both those who took part and the staff of the Hospital Club who hosted the show at no charge.

Chilli peppers

Thanks also to the judge who awarded me first prize for my greengage summer jam!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Evening red and morning grey are the sure signs of a fine day

Sunset over Bishop Auckland roof tops

Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight,
Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning

Shepherd's delight

The old saying proved correct last week. The fantastic sunset over Bishop Auckland last Tuesday evening certainly did predict a period of fine weather.

Fuchsia and crocosmia

The welcome sunshine reinforced the autumnal tones of the borders and it was surprising just how colourful the garden looked – a veritable kaleidoscope.

Pink cosmos

The acanthus is a particular favourite of mine. Last year was a disappointing one as lots of glorious leaf colour was evident but no flowers appeared. I have kept an anxious eye on it for some weeks and my vigilance has been rewarded – what a stunningly elegant plant it is.

Acanthus flowers in the shady border
Said to cure gout and soothe burns and scalds, the leaf of the acanthus has been the inspiration for many decorative designs – especially on the columns of Greek temples - and it was a favourite motif of William Morris.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

And the days go short when we reach September

So sang Sinatra in September Song and it’s certainly true.

The long light nights giving opportunities for reading or working in Pablo’s garden until late evening have now gone, compensated for by the ethereal light cast by the  harvest moon – which always reminds me of late artist and friend, Tom McGuinness, whose night time scenes were always illuminated by the glow from a McGuinness Moon.

Lucifer crocosmia
There is still lots of colour both to be seen and to look forward to in the autumn garden as, ironically, the hot area of the colour wheel is in the ascendancy – oranges, yellows and flaming red – Nature’s own bonfire which, with perfect timing, will burn itself out around 5th November.

My song is half a sigh
Because my green leaves die;
Sweet are my fruits, but all my leaves are dying;
And well may Autumn sigh…

   From September by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Don’t be too downhearted by Christina’s usual doleful verse. 

Bronze fennel and  apple mint

In Pablo’s garden we’ve still got Nature’s fruitful bounty to look forward to – the harvesting of apples and pears; the gathering of seeds for drying and growing on next year; dividing and replanting  perennials ; indulging in the produce from the greenhouse including the delights of jam and chutney making and the optimistic buying and planting of spring bulbs.

Keep gardening but, more importantly, as my grandfather always signed off his letters to me -
Keep smiling!