End of Month View – October 2011

The last day of October got off to a dull damp start. Sheets of fine silvery drizzle danced across the fields in tune with the advance and retreat of leaden clouds above. Even the cattle were quiet today, seeking shelter on the lower slopes, so that the constant drip of rain from the gutters outside formed the day’s predominant score.

It was early afternoon before the air cleared and a brightness slowly spread across the land, restoring its true colours. The sun finally broke through for a welcome spell before sinking all too soon, to be claimed once more by the gathering clouds upon the horizon. With the clocks  sent back an hour and winter rapidly approaching, the garden is subdued now; patches of bare earth appearing where once billowing blooms scrawled across.

I have pulled out some of the declining cosmos in the past weeks, the better to find the weeds below when tidying up and editing these beds for winter. The remaining plants continue to put on a gentle show, accompanied by other splashes of late colour from the last rudbeckia blooms, the wonderful sea holly and the turning leaves of the spindle that I planted a few weeks ago.

The occasional plume of white gaura dances at the front, and the pink larkspur is still sending up spires, yet the tangle of decaying stems around them dominates the scene now while I continue to take delight from each glimpse of colour that defies the season still.

In the opposite border, there is still a sense of fullness by the house where things continue to bloom, but the newly planted belly of the border looks sparse. I know how much promise is buried in that earth, though, with bareroots and bulbs invisible to the eye, that should bring a very different picture next spring and summer, if they survive the winter to come.

There are patches of interest against the dark backdrop of soil, from the small but vivid stems of two Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ grown from cuttings of my mum’s plants, along with the sedum flowers that have now turned a dark red, and small flares of autumn foliage here and there.

The grass seed we sowed earlier in the month has sprung up, and from a low angle the join between old and new is barely perceptible, although a higher perspective shows gaps that have yet to fill. It gives us a very different view from the house now, though; this carpet of vivid green replacing the industrial grey and brown of compacted earth and building debris that we have lived with for so long.

The small herb-bed along the side of the house has filled out well for so late in the year, with the aubretia, hyssop and centranthus ruber still flushing with flowers.

Down at the end of the garden, the last ruby raspberries decorate their canes, while the leaves of the pear trees have begun to turn a soft yellow.

Behind them, the cages were dismantled to reveal the savoy cabbages and cavalo nero beneath; sadly despite our netting we still suffered some caterpillar damage. The young cauliflowers and brussels sprouts were decimated while still young, during a busy month for us, so we will not have any crops of those this year. More vigilance required next year! The savoy cabbages look good though, and I look forward to steaming and stir frying them and adding them to soups through the winter.

Leeks, celeriac and parsnips continue to stand beyond them; we will harvest the leeks and parsnips later in the year, while we are now enjoying our celeriac crops – which are small but perfectly formed!

The bottom beds are mostly lying fallow now, with some beetroots, salad leaves and chard along the near edge still furnishing the kitchen, and autumn-sown broad beans and garlic already planted in the rotavated earth of the furthest bed. Sown just a couple of weeks ago, the early hardneck garlic ‘Sprint’ has promptly pushed pale shoots up, while a couple of bulbs of softneck garlic will be sown alongside later in the year.

All change here, as the garden slowly sinks into sleep, but already there are buds on the rhododendron and magnolia stellata, and the first of next year’s crops are dreaming of summer skies from their earthy beds.

Thanks to the Patient Gardener, for hosting this end of month view.


14 thoughts on “End of Month View – October 2011

  1. I have Cornus “Midwinter Fire” too (and I know how hard it is to do it justice in a photo) but it hasn’t yet lived up to its name. I think in the Spring I will prune it very hard to see if that helps.
    Your garden look a lot different to how it was this time last year!

    • Midwinter Fire is a beautiful shrub, ours are still very small, but hopefully in future years they will blaze like their name. You do need to prune some of the stems back to a couple of buds from the base each spring, as it’s the young stems that have the most vivid colour. Treat it mean! Yes, huge difference in the garden in a year, I wasn’t posting (m)any non-close-up shots a year ago! 🙂

  2. You have been incredibly busy – I think your garden looks v interesting…. and isnt it wierd how newly planted beds look like a complete cop out. Loads of hardwork going on here!

    • Thanks Catharine, it has been a busy summer, but so rewarding to have shaped the garden towards that of our imagination. I am impatient for the bare-looking bed to reveal its colours next year!

  3. So sorry about your sprouts and caulis. Makes you wonder how the little blighters get in and munch despite all that (expensive!) mesh… I love looking at a patch of apparently bare soil knowing that underneath all sorts of lovely things are putting down roots ready to romp away next Spring. I should think you must be ready for a rest you have done so much work in the garden this year – it now looks like a proper garden, rather than a building site! Must be deeply satisfying.

    • Unfortunately the mesh on some of the lids ripped away from the frame. Having watched the cats treat the cages as some form of deckchair, I think we know who is responsible for that! I did try to get in there and pick off the caterpillars by hand, and there were certainly less of them than last year out in the open, but obviously a handful got in. Possibly even with the young cauli and sprout plants, which went in much later than the main cabbages. Still, an improvement on last year, and next year we will have more time on our hands to keep on top of it all, hopefully!
      Working on the inside of the house again now, no rest for the wicked, but hopefully we will have things finished off not far into the New Year, then we can relax a bit more!
      Lovely to have a real garden growing out there now though, and not have to look through all the rubble…

  4. lots happening in your garden despite it declining though I find it quite interesting to see gardens heading towards winter.

    I love your trained apples

    • Yes the lack of frosts so far has kept the garden quite alive. I also take some pleasure from a good garden meeting winter, so hope ours will match that. Not so much this year, as we don’t have many mature plants yet or evergreens, but all things will come in time…
      Ah, they are our pear cordons (double-U) which are indeed really smart – and cropped this year for the first time! Our trained apples form two sides around the raspberry patch, but we are training them ourselves from young stems, so they are not so well formed yet – but we have the makings of three espalier tiers, with one more to form…

  5. What a beautifully written piece of prose, Sara. Your garden has changed so much in a year and still so much going on! it seems to be very difficult to get celeriac to grow to a decent size. I’m sure it’s in the watering but I’ve never achieved more than golf ball size!
    Good luck with the continuing house renovations. Do we get a peek at them too? I’m just nosey….

    • Thanks, Janet, it’s surprising to look back and see what has changed in a year.
      We left most of the veg to the rain this year, without much extra watering, hence our small celeriac roots I’m sure. Will try and give them extra next time.
      Ah, what’s left of the renovations are not very picturesque I’m afraid: plumbing and electrics to finish; cleaning, grouting and sealing the last slate floor; decorating, fixing and fitting cloakroom; finishing shower room; fitting built in shelves in cupboards and corners; some outstanding soffit boards, guttering and downpipes; bits of painting, mostly gloss on woodwork &c.
      But perhaps one day I’ll do a few before and after sneak peeks inside, once we’re all tidy and our pictures are hung.

  6. Your post was such an evocative description of an English autumn; I actually read it on my phone without seeing the photos first and I had a lump in my throat, not just from the cold either. I love the way you’ve pruned your pears, I want to try this with peaches, any advice. Christina

    • Thank you Christina, that’s a lovely comment.
      The pear trees were already trained as double-u cordons when we bought them. It’s a shape that works well for pears and apples on rootstocks that aren’t too vigourous, now we just prune the side shoots back to two or three leaves from the previous cut towards the end of summer, and keep the leaders trimmed back.
      Peaches fruit differently to pears and apples; traditionally they are trained as a fan (often against a hot wall) by cutting out old fruited stems and training in new ones – they fruit on the previous year’s growth. They should only be pruned on a dry day in summer to avoid silverleaf and other fungal infections that carry on wet days – not a problem in your climate I should think!
      Our peach tree was untrained, merely propped up by a decaying summerhouse. We took down the rotten structure and the tree stands unsupported now, and we just remove crossing branches and the usual three D’s: dead, diseased and damaged, along with suckers from the base. Training it into a U shape would be hard as you only really keep two year’s of growth before cutting branches right back, hence the popularity of the fan shape, whereas pears and apples retain their frame with pruning of their extremities. If we can grow peaches on our windy Welsh hill, though, they should be amazing in your sunny climes!

  7. What lovely colours – and good photographs (I did laugh when I saw the first one, though – typical!).

    I carefully picked lots of caterpillars off my brassicas last year – but I missed a few and they were eaten down to the stem. However, they came back as soon as the beasties either flew or died in the cold, and I still got enough from those plants to satisfy me… This year, not so many caterpillars. Not sure why…

    • Thanks, Kate. Suspect the first shot is going to be an all too familiar sight for months to come!

      It doesn’t take many caterpillars to munch a lot of plants. Only a few made it through our cage, but we were so busy with other things that it was a while before I made the time to check them after noticing the tear in the mesh… Should know better really! Definitely less than last year, anyway, which can only be a good thing. There is still one sprout plant in, just in case it makes a recovery for Christmas dinner, but I suspect we’ll be ordering our sprouts from the farmer’s market this year.

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