December 2020

I’m writing this at the tail end of November and two things strike me. One is that I am so happy to be in the garden. The weather is rubbish today so no gardening but over the last week I’ve lifted and cleaned the dahlias. They are now drying after their bath and getting ready for bed for the winter.

June, Heather and I have planted all the bulbs around the Dipping Pond and yes I know one should squat or kneel rather than bend but some of those beds are very narrow and it’s difficult not to. Suffice to say there were three very stiff gardeners the next day.

A stiffness I compounded by getting stuck into some restorative pruning on the laburnum arch. Honestly, it’s addictive. I stand there and look at each tree and work out what each branch is doing and if and how it can be trained. Then I work upwards bit by bit till I get to the top of the tree. I’m nowhere near finished but I’m loving it.

Anyway I digress. The second thing is just how much colour there is still in the garden. I went for a quick stroll round last night, mainly to visit the chickens and check their feed but also to have a peek to see what’s happening after spending two days bent double planting bulbs.

It was getting too dark to take a picture for which I apologise but the biggest and loveliest surprise was the leaf colours of Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood) in Alison’s garden.

One of the joys of P. persica is the autumn leaf colour. After being a modest green through summer the leaves turn all shades of carmine, scarlet, plum and claret. What I didn’t know until yesterday that given half a chance they’ll then do yellow and orange. Absolutely bright yellow: it was like being smacked round the face by a cart load of lemons and butter. Breath taking.

I do love it when you find something new in the garden. It’s why horticulture never becomes routine, notwithstanding there are definite rhythms to the year. Times when things need to happen, like planting bulbs, lifting dahlias, running apple trees and so on.

But it is a joy to see autumn’s last hurrah. I decided that in the spirit of 2020 when I had made the decision to stop (well forced into it slightly in March) and really look at things in the garden; that I would make a list of the colours of autumn I could see. Well no one was more surprised than me to discover I had listed sixty six. We say red, or green or yellow but if you really look there are ruby, garnet, scarlet, cherry, claret or cerise. Or ochre, bronze, copper, butterscotch and russet. Or lemon, parchment, honey, corn, tawny or caramel. Strangely the hardest colour to break down into shades was green. That needs some thought.

Once I started to really study what was in front of me as opposed to looking as I shot past to do another job, I saw so much more. The vibrant scarlet of the berries of the guelder rose, the flame red of the acer at the bottom of the garden (soon to be joined by more recently arrived acers now waiting to be planted). The ethereal lilac of Dahlia ‘Carolina Moon’, the deep ruby of Knautia macedonica, still flowering. The list really is endless.

So treat yourself with a walk out, don’t rush: stroll and enjoy the spectacle laid on for us by nature. It will do all of us a power of good.

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