It will be national tree week in the UK from 27 November to 5 December. This is to highlight that the time to plant trees in Britain is from November to March. (To this effect, national tree week in the Republic of Ireland is celebrated in March).
Even though most leaves are starting to fall at this time of the year, the National History Museum produced a Tree identification tree. And leaves aren’t the only way to identify trees anyway. There’s the bark, the formation of branches, and so much more.
There’s no denying that autumn has arrived. There’s a damp chill in the air, even when the sun shines.
It’s been a rather damp end to the summer. Gone are the days when I used to muse that London’s microclimate was one of virtual drought. It was a wet end to the summer, and it’s been a wet start of autumn – even if the temperatures have remained fairly warm and still in the main in double digits.
We have had some wins and some losses with harvests and crops.
In mid-October Malink was devestated by the complete ruination of his beloved popcorn crops. Huge disappointment. All, down to the last ear, destroyed. Beaten to the ground and eaten to a nub. And we’d already researched how to harvest and dry the corn in preparation of the first trial ‘PoP’!
As usual, a planting of three or four runner bean plants provided more than plenty of beans. We were sharing them out with the woodlands volunteers, but eventually we let the beans get too long and tough on the vine – which led to a slowing of the beans. We just pulled the plants out of the ground this week, but in truth we’ve not harvested any beans for at least a month.
I had thought to suggest we harvest them earlier but in truth we weren’t entirely sure they were fully ripened and ready to pick. The fluff wasn’t going brown yet, so we left them. But it’s certain that the animals know when things are good to eat!
We’re not completely certain who the popcorn ravaging culprit might have been. Was it the huge feral wood pigeons? The ones that gorge in summer on ripe figs…
Or was it a squirrel – jumping and pushing the cornstalk over so as to better nibble and devour the sweet tender corn?
Whomever it may have been, they did a thorough job of it – and not a single ear of corn was spared. Not one single ear of corn, after a summer of tender coddling of plants, of attentive watering and words of praise and affection.
Thankfully the tomatoes have done better.
Ok, admittedly we lost over half our tomato plants when blight struck in summer, but the blight resistant plants did well.
(Go figure! I might have been sceptical about the extent to which ‘blight resistant’ would be effective, but it seems well worth the trouble – we will be looking out for blight resistant tomatoes and also courgettes in future.)
So from our blight resistant tomato vines we have had punnet after punnet of gorgeous home grown tomatoes. Yum!
Some plants continue to push forth flowers and fruit. The red rose arbour continues to be in flower – an amazing feat of continuous flower production from spring to late autumn.
And the blackberry bushes – which I have trimmed and pruned dramatically – continue to set new growth, produce lovely white five-petalled flowers. The bees cotinue to buzz around and pollinate. And the pollinated white and pale pink petalled flowers set small nubby pale fruits ready to ripen, swell and sweeten in the low autumn sun.
Roses and blackberries are from the same root stock plant and are equally vigorous, hard working and hardy.
We see the final days of July roll by, marked by booming huge blooms all around. The pink asiatic lily this year has hit new heights – maybe 8 feet tall or more. The scent can be physically felt as one approaches the plant along the path or from across the grass lawn. It’s heady, swoony, powerful stuff, this flower business!
The picture below shows how tall these beauties really are.
The Asiatic lily stand absolutely on their own and need no staking at all (unlike the slightly more feeble gladioli, which do tend to flop over under the weight of their blooms, as do also the hollyhock).
The photo above shows the lily in the railway perennial flower bed. There is an ocean of orange flowering day lily running the middle length of the bed. After they finish flowering I plan to dig some of these day lily out to spread them further along the path towards the corner end – and also to make space for other plants. I may also move a few lilies into the middle meadow area. (I’ve already divided and moved some of the lucious purple bearded iris so that next spring there should be three patches of lovely iris spread along the length of the long perennial bed).
The originally planted multi-coloured gladioli growing to the side of the huge pink lily – which I’ve never dug up or disturbed for over 5 years – are now overcrowded and have divided to create new smaller plants. Which means they’re happy where they are! But they do need digging up, dividing and spreading out.
Some space needs to be created. Moving the day lilies around will help a bit – but yikes! From hard London clay and lots of gaps in the planting and mulching like crazy with straw and hay to keep the weeds down… well now I turn to find that we have almost NO open space in the flower beds. A welcome change but a new kind of challenge nonetheless.
Directly under the pergola are two bush roses – a yellow one and a pale creamy white rose which turns to pink as the bloom fades. These are presently finished flowering, but have been pruned back and may produce late summer blooms.
I may also divide and move closer to the asiatic lily some pink flowering Japanese anemone. I like the way the anemone flower heads dance and bob in the breeze lightly above the mound of foliage on long tall flower stalks and I think these would complement the lily and help fill the space towards the railing with a plant with foliage as a foil to the huge spike of the flowering spears. Hhhmmnn… Or so it seems to me today, as I write. But be warned: such are garden plans. Intentions but not promises. We’ll see if I get around to it – or whether some other planting scheme intervenes in the meantime. That’s gardening my style: part patience, part accident, part whimsy. Whatever goes. And in nature, what goes is usually pretty gorgeous, no matter how the scene conspired to come about.
On the other side of the pergola we have a large artemesia plant (aka wormwood) – silvery grey and a nice light foliage contrast to the other darker greens all around. In the photograph above, in distance along the railway bed you can just about see the pale purple hue of the huge flowering sea holly. Our second type of sea holly has not yet changed to an iridiscent blue – we can’t wait to see how that one comes one! The anemone and sea holly are also shown to advantage in the photograph below, which is taken at the other end of the long perennial flower bed.
The gladioli bloom are particularly fascinating the way they emerge – like a natural version of an exquisite Georgia O’Keeffe painting! The flowers open from the bottom of the flower spear and open in succession all the way up, like steps of a ladder opening up. Magical!
So there you have it – despite the changeable weather and strange torrential rains we’ve had – with plenty of thunder and lightning too – all in all July’s been blooming glorious!
Our young foxes are wanting for nothing next door. They have a sofa to lounge on. A shed to sit up high upon. Pink flowering roses and hydrangea. A perfect little set-up!
The flowers reach new peaks of splendour. Sky high blood red hollyhock reign supreme in the back patch meadow. In the past week I’ve worked hard – dripping sweat hard – to dig out some of the errant grass in the meadow area. Today I dead-headed some self-seeded poppy from the railway path and sprinkled the seedheads over the open ground. Green fingers crossed!
The Beast’s beloved sea holly have absolutely exploded into bloom this summer – finally after a long wet cool spring and early summer they are basking in the July summer heat. The sea holly flower brackets were so plentiful that I had to add a bamboo support stake last week to stop it from collapsing after heavy rain.
The photo below shows the sea holly’s purple blooms with a swathe of orange flowered day lily in the background behind.
Another super development is the appearance of flowers on the rescued root stump of pink hydrangea, planted under the large cherry tree. (Think: deep dry shade – one of the most daunting of growing conditions!). I admit I had limited to fatalistic “hopes” for this plant, but the Malink was determined to carry on watering it week after week…. and lo and behold! It’s finally showing some bloom! Go hydrangea go!
There’s a second hydrangea under the cherry boughs – this one is doing a little better (is closer to the edge of the tree’s canopy), and sports a high bright white bloom. Another one of the flower guy’s big successes.
And farther afield, at the allotment, all is well. We’d left if for a week but everything is growing well. The raspberries are coming to the end (and loganberries are done and dusted), but we have blueberry just coming into fruit – a lovely treat! We harvested enough for a light summery treat with delicious greek yoghurt.
The very first blackberry are starting to show so we should have the first harvests in a week’s time. And truth be told – the yellow raspberries are coming into their own and do appear to be doing very well this year with large juicy fruits. Yum!
The rose of sharon bush at the allotment has come into bloom. It’s all a bit leggy and too tall, but I’ve been waiting for the flowers before a big hack back. In the meantime the flowers are pretty awesome – like little mini flower fireworks – and the pollinators are enjoying them too.
The Beast’s “field of dreams” (aka patch of popcorn corn plants) is doing well and the plants are growing taller. That patch is a new grow area and is sorely in need of a serious weed and also some nourishing mulch. We’ll drench the bed in manure this autumn, but that’s no help to the corn. Tomorrow I’ll have a go at weeding and digging out the grass at the end of the bed. Phewf! It’s hard work…
So all is well and thriving on the plots. Upcoming projects including completing dividing the bearded purple iris to spread out the early spring bloom down the railway path, as well as digging out and transplanting some orange flowering day lily once they’ve finished blooming. I love the lilies – they are so cheerful and easy to take care of – but they’re overcrowding the roses under the first pergola, so I need to move some out and spread the lily joy around the place. Another division project will be to dig up and space out the gladioli bulbs – but I’ll wait until they flower and show themselves, that way I can be organised about colours when I replant. I’ll need to dig out and move from the railway path the patches of crocosmia to make room for all this gladioli re-planting! Things sure are different from the days when there were more bare patches than plants, and that was only a few years ago.
I also need to prune the black and red currant bushes, but I checked the RHS guide and they recommend doing this in the winter period – so I will have to be patient! In the meantime there’s plenty of other things to keep us busy – including our plan to dig out and divide and rationalise the raspberry bed at the allotment – the final area of the allotment that we’ve not really dug into since taking over the plot.
But all that (and more!) is for some other day.
We’ve been enjoying watching the antics of the young fox family living in our neighbourhood. They love the back flower garden, which is gated and locked and thus kept safely a dog-free zone. Oh the vulpine bliss!
This year the young family have two young cubs, who have yet to grow into their big ears and long legs. Asleep with limbs stretched out on the grass of the downstairs neighbour’s yard, the young fox cubs look a little like miniature kangaroos.
The adults this year are very very vocal. There are verbal fox fights most nights.
Despite a poor year more or less with soft fruit because of all the rain this summer (such a change from previous summers in London which suffered with drought and high heat!), we have high hopes for the pepper patch – which last weekend we potted out into the patch cleared of winter grown garlic.
And actually, to be totally honest, not all soft fruit has been a wash out. The black currant bush in the back patch which grows along the railway path was a wonder this year and produced almost 3 kilos of fruit!! I’m going to take hard wood cuttings in the winter to propagate a few more bushes of this monster-producer!
July has been much the same as June – mainly wet and fairly cool for summertime. The plants need heat!! Our strawberries were soaked out, the raspberries grew well but were blown to ground by high winds and very heavy rains. We barely got a look-in at the loganberries this year. So very wet and unseasonably cool. Boo!
At least the blooms have been spectacular, with many plants which normally fade in the summer have remained in full and robust growth.
And the flowers at the allotment are also coming on well. Especially the big guy’s beloved sea holly!
So it’s not all been a wash-out…..