A September Garden

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Every time I buy a plant I save the label, if there is one. A recent search for a particular label spurred me to lay the entire contents of my label box out on the lawn. Seven years of gardening has furnished the plot with over 170-plus plants – not including the ones that didn’t come with a label, or boxes of seasonal bedding plants.

So what does this say about my abilities as a gardener? I am good at killing plants? I am indecisive? I shop for plants like a (normal) woman shops for shoes? My findings:

– Judging by the quantities of labels I have a hard time in keeping Echinacea alive from one year to the next (helped in no small part by slugs).

– Two twisted hazel trees purchased for £1.49 each – another B&Q bargain at 90%off from their neglectful garden centre.

– A Tibouchina – a most dazzlingly exotic purple flowered plant I bought on a whim from an RHS flower show, which really belonged in a conservatory and that I managed to kill within weeks.

– Anthemis ‘Kelwayi’ – an unexpectedly good purchase from a 99p Store that has flowered its little yellow socks off all summer (see ‘A July Garden’).

– Many and varied alpine plants that didn’t survive the winter wet on my clay soil and disappeared into a mush.

– I mostly shop at B&Q. Not ideal, but four local nurseries have succumbed to housing developers in the last seven years. The fifth and last is closing down next spring. I shall have to resort to buying special plants mail-order.

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The unmistakable Comma butterfly is yet another visitor to the popular verbena bonariensis. So named for its white punctuation mark on the underside of its hindwings, its raggedy wing shape mimics a dead leaf when not in flight.

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I took a walk along an area of scrubland one morning in search of dried plant material to photograph. I took these, and found some ‘safety sparklers’ for use on bonfire night.

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Sheila, my next door neighbour, recently coerced me into doing a bit of scrumping. Her garden backs onto another garden which is presently unoccupied; at the bottom is a large mature apple tree. Sheila thrust a plastic bag into my hand and, with step-ladder tucked under her arm, scuttled off towards the back fence with visions of apple crumbles swimming in front of her eyes. Sheila’s a lively, 70-odd year old bird and was up that ladder like a rocket. She gathered as many apples as she could reach, which amounted to a whole carrier bag full, and we split the booty 50/50.

I don’t know the variety of apple but they were large, squat, pale yellow, with a deep pink blush. The flesh turned pink when I took a bite, and it tasted not unlike ‘Discovery’. Knowing Discoveries do not store well but are best eaten soon off the tree, I pondered on what to do with them. I decided to make some apple and tomato chutney, as I had a glut of ‘Super Marmande’ tomatoes. Not having made chutney before, I consulted my Delia bible, and spent the next three hours being guardian to a hot bubbling mass of fruit, onions and vinegar. On the hottest day of the year. I hope it will be worth it – but I will have to wait till Christmas before I am allowed (according to Delia) to open a jar. If it’s good I will give one to Sheila, in honour of her scrumping abilities.

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Callicarpa, or Beauty-berry.

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Water droplets on a rose petal. They remind me of glass paperweights.

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A pretty hoverfly on Erysimum, Asters in the background.

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These diadem or garden cross spiders are everywhere now, mopping up late-flying insects. Usually in the most inconvenient places – with webs stretched right across the path ready to decapitate an unwary gardener.

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The medges continue to visit the back door every evening for their cat biscuits and peanuts. John wants to open up the garage for them to hibernate in (with a gap in the door for them to exit if need be) but I’m in two minds. Should they be left to their own devices, to hibernate naturally outside, or are they so critically endangered (numbers have declined by a third in 10 years) that any help to get them through the winter should be attempted? Your thoughts would be appreciated!

Frames of reference
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9 Responses to A September Garden

  1. Susie says:

    Adore your monthly garden missives Karen. Plant label layout looks fab & interesting to consider what we humans do through evidence of what we buy… and what we keep, chuck or collect. I’m with John on garage winter hibernation access.

  2. Thanks Susie. If you want to see what other stuff we have squirrelled away you’re welcome to come and tidy up our loft………
    Cardboard boxes already installed in the garage awaiting spiky tenants!

  3. Susie Freeman says:

    Ha ha – loft is very tempting Karen, but currently purging my own accumulations. SX

  4. Bernice Ryan says:

    Love the photos. Sympathise about slug/snail attacks. One thing I have found seems to put them off, at least on my iris sibirica which tiny young snails and others move in on when they are putting up their budding shoots, is spraying them all over morning and evening with a solution of essential oil of geranium – about five + drops in half a litre of water. Apparently the smell is supposed to put them off. Combined, of course, with manual removal of any that you can see that haven’t been deterred. (Don’t know what else it might work on, but it’s worth a go.) But don’t delay – take pre-emptive action. I lost a few this year because I was late getting round to it.
    Re hedgehogs – wonder if a not-to-be disturbed log/wood-pile in the shed would be more like what they seek out if left to their own devices? Or something similar inside that cardboard. We are always being asked to check wood-piles around November 5th lest there be hibernating hedgehogs therein. Probably they will be hibernating a bit later this year because of late autumn.

    • Thanks Bernice, I will try the geranium potion next spring. One home-made remedy I tried a year or two ago was crushed garlic cloves in water. It was supposed to deter slugs – or was it cats? – but it did neither.
      The hedgehogs have two purpose built wooden boxes, an autumn leaf pile, two log shelters with a cosy conifer thatch, in addition to their 2 cardboard boxes in the garage. Last year they were very keen on plastic bag blankets, so I have provided those too. I consider them spoilt.

  5. A garden of labels; it’s a nice response to the museum without labels, perhaps you could frame them. I love the ‘safety sparkler’ photo, but sorry there’s no incriminating photo of you going scrumping over the fence.

  6. Bill says:

    “Discoveries do not store well but are best eaten soon off the tree”

    I love that line. It belongs in a poem. 🙂

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