I’ve missed most of this autumn, one way or the other.
The end of summer fled past; parenthood and work conspiring to devour time. Then just as the weather grew crisp and bright, and the leaves began to turn in earnest – perfect for exploring – I fell prey to four weeks of back-to-back illness which confined me indoors, if not in bed for most of that time. I’ve been limping back towards better health for a couple of weeks now, but I do seem to have missed most of autumn’s fiery show. I hear it was a good one this year!
While most of the acers in our garden lost their leaves before they turned, this specimen, whose name has been lost to time, continues to lighten up the gloomiest November day with a fiery blaze of colour that puts a smile on my face whenever I look out onto it. Despite the flooding, and a hailstorm that left an inch of ice across the garden for days, there are still a surprising number of flowers still in bloom – the hardy fuchsias are a riot of pink and purple, and you may glimpse in the picture above the last blooms of Gaura, Salvia Kate Glen and a few of the delicate pink mallow-like flowers of Althea cannabina still floating high in the sky.
It’s been an amazing year for conkers too! We’ve never seen so much fruit on our horse chestnut tree: for weeks we were bringing in dozens daily (assisted by our excited little helper, who loved nothing more than trying to prise open the prickly cases to rescue the gleaming treasures within).
Back in the spring, I wrote about the changes we were making in the garden. I’ve had little time since to write about our progress, but somehow we did manage to make time to fulfil our plans, if oh so slowly. In June the new side fence was erected down the northern side of the kitchen garden, adjacent to our neighbour. To allow the strong winds to pass through without taking the fence down, we built the fence from vertical slats, spaced an inch apart, and then mounted trellis panels in front (anticipating a host of climbers scrambling up these in time), such that the gaps are barely noticeable. While we waited for an opportunity to paint the new fence, the expanse of brown was rather overwhelming at first, making the space seem much smaller. It took us many weeks (and much of our will to live) to paint the fence, and both sides of trellis, in a dark green which then happily gave us back the sense of space we had lost.
With the fence installed and painstakingly painted, KofH could finally finish levelling the ground across the garden as much as possible, and build the last part-raised bed the length of the fence. Then we relocated much of our fruit here – rhubarb, strawberries, blackcurrants and raspberries, alongside some newly purchased asparagus which we had planted in pots upon delivery. The apple espaliers were also replanted, time will tell whether they survive our rather brutal treatment of them!
As autumn began, we raked and tamped down the walkways between the beds, and optimistically sowed grass seed.
The mild damp weather was perfect for new grass, which grew long and lush, beyond all expectations.
We’ve had to cut it twice already! The grass paths make such a difference to the feel of the garden, and although they are a little patchy in places, with a little more seed in the spring, by next summer I suspect the kitchen garden will look as though it has always been this way.
The last major change was the transition between ornamental and kitchen garden. This I contemplated for some time before coming up with a simple asymmetric curve, which I was determined to put in place before the weather turned – and while I was still able to … at this point I should confess that my recent lack of immune system has been largely due to the little person growing inside me, and taking all my energy these days! Yes, we are expecting a sibling for our little one to arrive in late spring. More changes ahead, and even less time, I’m sure!
I seized my opportunity and took a day’s leave from work, when I transformed my hosepipe curve into a boundary between lawn and ornamental beds, extending the field boundary slightly, and creating two new small beds in front of the shed and the column of raised beds.
It will need some tweaking, I’m sure, but we’re pleased with the transformation. I already have plans for my new planting space – more plans than space as usual, of course! There are a few plants in the existing borders that I intend to move into the new beds in the spring, and a handful of plants in containers then waiting to go into the ground.
Just a few (dozen, ahem) bulbs still to get into the ground, and the dahlias to lift, then I can relax for the winter, contemplating new plant purchases for the spring. I think I’ll be purely directing operations by then though! Let’s hope we can manage to coordinate a few crops next year to take advantage of our new part-raised beds, amid the chaos of a new baby and a busy toddler (who has turned two already this autumn!).