October 2021 – Autumn has arrived

Well there is certainly a nip in the air now and we have had enough rain to satisfy the most thirsty of plants. The autumn colour is intensifying, particularly in Alison’s Garden where the Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) is turning several shades of claret, ruby and crimson and the leaves of Stag’s Horn Sumach (Rhus typhina) are a vibrant scarlet.

For me, all thoughts turn to the Laburnum Arch. This is my second year of pruning it back into shape. Rather dispiritingly, the RHS Pruning and Training manual tells me it is difficult to restore once out of shape and getting a new tree is better.

Well, for me that is not an option so I will carry on and work my socks off to try to get it to look good. It may take another couple of years but I’m willing to give it a go.

There was however, a cheering note in the RHS manual of pruning: now is the time to be pruning and training. I was pleased as punch. The reason being that everywhere else I know that has laburnum, prunes and trains in January. The Arch in the Queen’s Garden at Kew always had two freezing gardeners up ladders straight after Christmas and I know Bodnant is the same as I had a long chat with the gardener responsible for their extremely famous arch.

Any hope of seeing the Bodnant arch went down the drain with the pandemic but am I deterred or downhearted? No,  I’m leaping to work with my pruning saw and string.

I have to say I much prefer to do the job now. Today for example was blustery with a chill wind but this afternoon the sun has shone. But however chilly, it’s a sight warmer than January.

The late, great Christopher Lloyd always said that the best time to do a gardening job was when you had the time to do it. I couldn’t agree more: the thought of tying whippy branches into a metal framework in the middle of winter is about as enticing as a slap in the face with a wet fish.

Anyway, I seem to be wreaking carnage on it when I look at what I have removed but there still seems to be plenty up there. The best thing is that I am letting light in and by tying in new growth horizontally, it will further encourage new shoots to burst forth. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Meanwhile in the shop I am trying my hardest to turn my thoughts towards Christmas. Now I love Christmas: I love Advent and the preparations for Christmas.

We are very traditional: the tree goes up on Christmas Eve (often to the accompaniment of Carols from King’s) and stays till Twelfth Night.

However, as to actually making the shop look like Christmas in October, well that feels like a step too far. I have to say this is rank hypocrisy as I am always keen to get my Christmas shopping done as early as possible. Preferably before everyone else starts and the shops become a hellish combination of glitter and endless Christmas hits.

We are open throughout December so that people (me included) can do some Christmas shopping here. So I am going to have to grit my teeth and get on with it. I managed to put some Christmassy chocolate out this morning. Well it’s one small step, baubles can happen later.

Anyway, enough of Christmas preparations, the sun is peeping through the cloud and I’m off out to do battle with the Laburnum again. Happy days.

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