Tuesday 22 November 2022

After all our strangely unseasonable weather, we’re now having a proper November. Yesterday morning was misty and frosty with the sun trying to break through.  As I trudged (carefully) down the garden, my frozen fingers grasping the camera, my glasses steaming up from my breath as I tried to see through the viewfinder, I managed to fire off a few likely shots to show you this morning, including this robin: I’d caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye and clicked the shutter hopefully.  The photo of the robin in the tree also shows the mist.  Before I came in I had broken the ice on the bird bath and refilled it, replenished the bird feeders, rescuing the peanut one from the undergrowth (overactive squirrel!) and cut off a shoot that was obstructing one of the seed feeder’s portholes. All nicely visible through the French windows.  When my fingers have thawed out I must wash the spare feeders ready for use next time.

The camellia is in bud ready for some early blooms next year; the purple cotinus is just glorious, clashing richly with the Bowles’ Mauve wallflowers; the fatsia is in full bloom now and at its feet: the mother-of-pearl-like honesty seed pods but my favourite is the river birch.

I was so glad I’d chopped all the red valerian back in the kitchen garden late on Wednesday afternoon.  I worked in on-and-off drizzle and it was dark by the time I was finished, but the garden waste bin was full and ready for collection in the morning.  The weather on Thursday was set to be foul according to my rain radar app but, having noticed a slight gap in the swirling rain at eleven, I decided to go and have a coffee and toasted teacake at the golf club (you don’t have to be a member).  As I left the house, the first job was to right the azalea & skimmia pot that had been blown over.  I had a dry walk to the club where the waves were lashing the shore and, since the golf had been cancelled, seagulls and one crow were hogging the greens.  It was cosy in the clubhouse but on the way home it began to rain again and I walked into a sleet shower.

Earlier in the week, when the wind dropped, I managed a brief session in the woodland garden, scrubbing and refilling the upturned bin lid bird bath and sweeping the paving clear of wet leaves and on Friday I cut a couple of stems of hydrangea for the mantelpiece’s vase, there being no rose buds to pick.  Gardening may be tailing off and BBC’s Gardeners’ World has finished until next March but I’m still popping in and out when the weather permits and always appreciating the garden & wildlife even if it’s only through the windows. 

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Earlier in the week, I had twenty minutes to spare before my coffee break so I spent it raking up leaves from the lawn and got quite a swathe done in the time.  Once the leaf mould bin is full, I invert the lid, anchoring it with a brick to catch rainwater for the birds.  Since then it’s been mostly windy so a waste of time trying to rake or sweep up leaves.  The wind blows them on to the borders, however, where they act as duvets for dormant plants and shelter for creatures, so it’s not all bad.  We’ve had a fair bit of rain which makes the leaf-strewn paths slippery but if I can get out to gather them they rot down quicker, in the leaf mould bins, if they are wet.  It’s all swings ahnd roundabouts with the leaf harvest!

The grey squirrel is cleaning me out of bird seed again: payment for its entertaining antics!

The red cordyline was almost horizontal and suffering from wind rock so I pulled its foliage through one of my quirky pots, rendered bottomless by the frost.  It acts as a support while the cordyline’s roots take firmer hold (I hope).  

The last few days have been dismal with foggy starts.  Proper season of mists etc to begin quoting Keats, as we all tend to do in autumn.  I’ve eaten all my mellow fruitfulness apart from the salad crops still growing abundantly in the kitchen garden: flat-leaf parsley (with a self-sown golden feverfew), lettuces, rocket, radish and spring onions, the last giving me onion-flavoured leaves whilst the bulbs themselves are swelling. 

Helen and James have been in St Andrews and have sent me a clip of a clever gull paddling the grass with its feet to mimic the sound of rainfall encouraging worms to the surface for him to eat.  I can’t reproduce the clip but this still from it taken through railings shows the gull’s paddling action.

Meanwhile, on murky days, I am doing indoor gardening: tending my house plants and enjoying those that are in flower, like the anthurium which never seems to stop producing its yellow flower spikes, protected by scarlet, waxy spathes; the spider plant which is producing white stars and plantlets, the grey-green leaved echevaria with its orangey-pink blooms and the scarlet and pink pelargoniums.  Cheery sights for dismal days.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Temperatures are fluctuating this month.  Yesterday, when I took in the milk (my milkman delivers it pleasingly early in the morning and in glass bottles), it felt quite warm outside, with a balmy breeze but last Monday whilst hanging out the washing it felt icy so I brought in the Creed’s Seedling pelargonium.  It’s one of the six ‘old fashioned geraniums’ I bought from the Radio Times in 1986, actually a substitution which turned out to be my favourite of the bunch, and I’ve kept it, or rather it’s cloned offspring ever since.  I’d hate to lose it.  It is most unusual with its yellow foliage and scarlet single flowers.  The photo of the one in full bloom was taken in September 2010. 

Wanting to fill up the garden waste bin ready for the Thursday collection and to make the most of my fee, I trimmed the field maple (acer campestre) and privet (ligustrum) hedges and disposed of the woody trimmings in said bin.  I couldn’t reach the very back of the privet with my shears but since the shrub belonged in the school grounds until they put up the galvanized palings they’ll have to do that bit themselves!  I managed to rake up only one tub trug full of autumn leaves from the lawn for my leaf mould bin.  Note to self: must do better this week for the sake of my stomach muscles, lawn and paths – and leaf mould, of course!

Photos show ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of the field maple and it’s beautiful leaves, turning yellow, and the trimmed privet with one of my four composters in the foreground. The bright red blobs in the ‘after’ photo belong to the wild purple plum tree whose leaves turn this vivid colour in autumn.

As I wandered up and down the garden I could hear a robin singing from next door’s tree. It then hopped down to the fence keeping an eye on me and hoping for grubs. I spotted a tiny self-sown sunflower, paling into insignificance when compared with the few remaining rudbeckia flowers.  It reminds me of my plan to grow huge sunflowers next year.  I’ve got plenty of seed packets in my tin, free with various garden magazines.  I hope they’re still viable.

The red salvia in the front garden has begun to flower again and the rose bushes are still providing me with the odd bud for a vase as long as I pick them before the rain can reduce them to mush.  This one is a Queen Elizabeth. The relative warmth of the house opens them up, like the Just Joey.  We are getting a lot of rain and that’s good for the garden.  The acid-loving plants, such as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas need rainwater; this is the time of year when they form their flower buds for next year so if it doesn’t rain I have to give my potted shocking pink-flowered azalea a bucket of water from the rainwater butts once a week to make sure of my vivid display in May.

The concrete bird bath top has had one too many falls to the ground, overbalanced by hefty woodpigeons, I assume, and a crack had appeared, slowly draining it of any water I filled it with.  It wasn’t the original top but one recycled from an earlier base.  I’ve had to make do with a large plastic plant pot saucer, anchored with a half brick.  It will be lighter for me to carry to the outdoor tap for scrubbing.  I’ve yet to see a bird drinking from it but they probably sneak in when I’m not looking.  There are plenty of house sparrows about at the front making a lovely din with their chattering.  I have seen birds at the feeding station moved from the lilac tree in the old meadow to the tall iron pole in the courtyard.  I blundered into the fake conservatory scattering a whole load of birds, probably sparrows and tits but after that I was more cautious and managed to snap a blue tit.  I’ve bought a new easy-to-clean Tom Chambers feeder, actually a double fat block holder but versatile enough to hold several fat balls.

I’d completely forgotten about the little cherry tomato plant in the potager but was attracted by the red fruits which I harvested before they could rot.  I had the ripe ones with my lunch and put the green ones in the drawer with the others that ripen gradually giving me two or three a day to go with my home-grown salad leaves

In the garage there is a chrysalis (or is it a leaf?) hanging from a bent bamboo cane.  I shall not disturb it and see what happens.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Here are some photos taken in my garden.  They are for everyone, including Lisa, who loves autumn and scuffling through the fallen leaves.  David loved autumn as well, especially those crisp, dry days with blue skies.  These leaves, the ones that don’t get blown away, will be swept up from the lawn so the grass isn’t hidden from the light and from the paths so they don’t become slippery when it rains.  They will be gathered in bins at the bottom of the garden where they will turn into the gardener’s asset: leaf mould. The sweeping and raking will stop my stomach muscles from going flabby!  All good!

Even my granddaughter’s bonsai horse chestnut is displaying its golden autumn leaves before they drop off in turn.

Whilst on the subject of trees, this is what woke me up on Saturday morning.  The dazzling lights and mechanical sound of tree-removal equipment in the school grounds that butt on to the bottom of my garden.  The beautiful ash tree is no more.  Its removal was no doubt necessary although it didn’t look diseased from my distant view.  It has left a hole in the sky and I was left with a groggy head after my rude awakening!

It isn’t just the trees that provide us with colour at this time of year.  The variegated wallflower, erysimum linifolium variegatum still has its pretty lavender-coloured blooms; the hydrangea leaves are turning scarlet and the white flower heads are fading to a dusky pink; the kaffir lilies keep on giving and another opium poppy has sprung up in the old meadow where I sowed Jean’s seeds.  We usually cut down the spent stems of herbaceous perennials but the rudbeckia seedheads are so striking that I leave them.

It’s time for the fatsias to flower and the little one in the corner of the courtyard, where I’m hoping it will grow big and fill the corner with a tropical feast of palmate leaves, is starting to produce its globular blooms.

I planted up a pot of lettuces, the remainder of my lettuce trough, to take round to my daughter.  I think the variety I grew was Cos.  I squeezed in a few rocket plants, too.  She will be able to lean through the kitchen bifolds and harvest a green salad.  I’ve plenty of lettuces this year and my son took a couple home, too.

Watermark J saw swarms of different coloured ladybirds on Saturday while walking through South Cliff Gardens and wondered why there were so many about.  She sent this picture of one that settled on her finger.  At this time of year they are usually searching for places to hibernate but the unseasonably warm weather is causing them to swarm, apparently.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

As the darker, damper days of autumn keep me increasingly indoors with my knitting, TV and radio, I find I can still enjoy the rich, seasonal hues of the foliage through the French windows and do a spot of bird watching, too.  On dry days, I can even have my half-hour gardening sessions.  The witch hazel leaves are gold, now, and turning red, contrasting with the purple cotinus foliage, and looking all the better against the silvery-green olive tree in the foreground and the background of green trachycarpus fortunei fans.

The tits were having a feeding frenzy among the decaying lilac tree leaves: blue tit (with the blue crown), great tit (with the broad black body stripe) and coal tit (with the mini badger head).  A lone magpie was feeding on the leaf-strewn lawn, but I’m not superstitious!

My daughter was delighted with her new view through her kitchen bifolds and sent me the photo.  My son-in-law and his mate had collected the plants I’d potted up the previous week.  I’ve kept back the arum italicum pictum shoot to grow on for her.  My next project is a pot of crocus bulbs each to look forward to next spring.  My son is cracking on with his project: the new side gate for my garden. Helen & James, meanwhile, sent me a photo of a strange family of planters whilst on their Highlands road trip!  One of the bird boxes Helen had given me became dislodged in the gales.   It didn’t appear to have been used in its former position so I wedged it into the privet at the bottom of the garden. In its new situation perhaps a robin will make a nest there or wrens might snuggle up inside.  They like to share their body heat in such cavities in the winter.

Hazel had bought a tray of red and green Salad Bowl lettuces and shared them with me to plant up.  I put most of them into the trough of failed beetroot (Only one germinated but it was old seed so I’ve thrown away the packet. The rest of the Salad Bowl lettuces were squeezed into spaces in my Little Gem lettuce planters and the leaves that fell off in the process were saved and washed to go with my dinner. How nice to have such a wide variety of salad leaves in my kitchen garden to add a bit of healthy greenery (and a touch of red) to my meals!

Tuesday 18 October 2022

What a lovely picture my red pelargonium made in the landing window on Sunday morning as I went downstairs for my first cup of tea! 

On the kitchen windowsill the basil is just about spent but its tiny, white flowers are very pretty. 

I can still appreciate the garden even though it’s past the middle of October but laziness and hibernation have set in. Less gardening is being done although I’ll have to do more sweeping up of autumn leaves if I don’t want the grass to be smothered or to run out of leaf mould.  The leaves were such a beautiful colour as I swept them up from the paving at the bottom of the garden earlier in the week.  You can’t tell, now, though: more have fallen to replace them. We often see various forms of fungus on damp lawns in autumn and my lawn has its crop, too.

As I sieved compost to fill pots for the plants I’d been growing for my daughter, a robin was flitting about in case I should uncover some tasty grubs.  My daughter & son-in-law’s garden is not yet ready for planting after their new extension but they want something in pots to look at through the new kitchen bifolds, so I have a fatsia, periscaria amplexicaulis (a division from Watermark J’s plant which we find will flower even in shade) and a cordyline.  I’m also trying to grow them an arum italicum pictum.  My original plant has seeded itself around the garden and I have dug out a shoot and potted it up.  The arums are in berry now and the marbled leaves have disappeared.  In their season the leaves will re-grow and the typical flowers of an arum will bloom.

Some flowers are bursting forth out of season, however.  A marsh marigold is about to flower by the fish pond and clematis armandii, twining round the holly tree, has produced a couple of flowers.  Both these plants are supposed to flower in March to April and the dianthus Neon Star, which usually flowers in June, is covered in vivid blooms in David’s alpine garden.

Flowering at the proper time, though, are the hardy plumbago (ceratostigma), cyclamen, Japanese anemonies, kaffir lilies, an Indian Summer rose and rudbeckia.

I thought the wisteria had been killed when the arch was moved lower down from the secret corner, necessitating its being wrenched out, but it has come back with a vengeance.  Will it flower next year, I wonder?

The grey squirrel has been vandalising my bird seed feeders so I have had to replace them from the local supermarket.  I can see that these Tom Chambers feeders will be much easier to clean than my old ones.

I am still harvesting lettuce and other salad leaves, as well as the odd radish, from the kitchen garden and as the cherry tomatoes ripen in the kitchen drawer I add those to my lunchtime salads, too.

Finally, something amazing forwarded by my son!

Tuesday 11 October 2022

The gardening year is drawing to a close and although it still looks glorious outside, when it’s not raining, that is, it’s definitely colder and I’m glad of my gardening gloves when I go out for my daily half-hour gardening sessions.  That orange blob on the window sill is the seed pod of the perennial Chinese lantern (physalis alkekengi) from Jean, across the road, to see if I can grow another plant.  Her front garden is full of them and she said I could take a seed pod.  They look lovely at this time of year but I have not a single one left.  Ironically, I gave Jean her original plant. She gave me a similar plant with blue, instead of white flowers and greenish black seed pods, instead of orange: the shoo fly (nicandra physalodes), an annual but a self-seeder.  I get seedlings popping up from time to time, distinguished by the black dots on their leaves.  I took the the shoo fly and Chinese lantern photos in 2015, in August and September, respectively.

My half-hour session was doubled when it came to the mowing.  I’ve cut the grass, including the meadow swathe, for the last time until next March at the earliest and I congratulate myself on having had the crazy paving at the front exchanged for turf: it takes less than thirty minutes to mow (ear protectors on) whereas it used to take three to four days to weed between the crazy paving slabs.  The grass clippings will be gradually layered on to my compost heap with some going to my daughter’s hot box.

The courtyard’s soaring buddleias have finished flowering and been cut hard back. The last cucumber has been picked, and eaten, tasty, though misshapen, sliced up into cucumber sandwiches with a sprinkling of salt, and the spent plant composted.  I don’t expect any more of my cherry tomatoes to ripen outside so I have picked them, removed them from the vine, washed them and and put them in a kitchen drawer where I know they will turn red in due course.  Enclosing them in a drawer makes them ripen quicker than putting them on a sunny windowsill, especially if you put a banana in with them.  Something to do with the ethylene that the banana emits.  The woodpigeons are gathering at the tallest holly tree to feast on the berries.

The wallflowers in the big tub outside the French windows were looking past their best so I swapped the tub with the trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) pot.  The jasmine’s leaves have turned crimson for the autumn.  I’ve transferred the terracotta worm too: it makes me chuckle when I catch sight of it!

Helen’s mixed border in Scotland is looking stunning with its bright pink nerines from her mother’s garden, the silvery-leaved snow-in-summer and rhubarb, all growing together in a productive and beautiful way.

I was surprised to see an orange butterfly in the courtyard so late in the season.  It didn’t settle so I was unable to identify it but the next day it alighted on the Bowles’ Mauve wallflowers and proved to be a comma.  It didn’t stay long enough for me to photograph it so here’s one I snapped on the same plant last month.  I was checking my Butterfly Conservation leaflet, telling my son that commas fly all year apart from June.  “When they turn into apostrophes,” he quipped! 

Watermark J invited me over for coffee on Friday morning.  We didn’t get our usual look round the garden because the rain came down not long after I’d arrived but she gave me some home-harvested sweet peas and some home-grown runner beans which I was very pleased with.  I had used the last of Lisa’s sweet pea seeds in my autumn sowing, trying to get ahead for next year.   My seedlings are overwintering in a makeshift cold frame: a plastic tub in the kitchen garden with a cloche.  If they don’t survive I’ve got Watermark J’s tried and tested seeds: they were beautiful.  Colourful and fragrant. I shall sow more in spring in any case. I love them!

Tuesday 4 October 2022

We often talk about colour in the garden but it doesn’t always come from flowers.  Hazel, my neighbour over the road, wanted me to take a photo of my next-door neighbour’s beech tree from the other side of the road.  She’d been enjoying the colours from her window: the green and gold of the turning-to-autumn leaves, the blue of the sky and the white of my house.  Then later that day someone parked a copper-coloured car outside, picking up the copper tones from my view of the beech tree through the Venetian blinds and adding to the cheerful palette!  The pink Queen Elizabeth roses are also getting in on the act in the foreground – and the blue car, beyond, too.

It was quite a wrench, if you’ll excuse the pun, pulling out all the strawberry plants that had layered themselves along the edge of potager bed no.1 but if the edges of the beds are obscured it’s a potential trip hazard so the potager has been my priority this week.  I did save four of the strawberry plants, three to pot up into the kitchen garden’s urn and the fourth for the one in the courtyard.  I’m hoping for big juicy red fruits hanging over the edges of the pots for next year’s Wimbledon.

As I was weeding, I unearthed a spring onion bulb.  When I found six more, I planted them up into another of my daughter’s recycled washing up bowls in the kitchen garden.  The grid will stop blackbirds from pulling out the bulbs in their search for worms and you will notice that I write my label on the edge of the tub with a marker pen.  Every time I change the crop I turn the tub through ninety degrees to give me a new edge to write on and by the time I get round to the original edge it has faded to give another free space for my label.  From bed no. 4, I potted up a bronze fennel seedling, also for the kitchen garden.  It must have seeded itself from the big one in the long border. 

Now, potager bed no.1 (the beds are numbered clockwise from bottom left) contains just the rosemary, sage and a borage; bed 2, the gooseberry bush; bed 3, the Katy apple tree and chives and bed 4, lavender, cherry tomato, a rose and curly parsley.  A shrubby thyme and three varieties of creeping thyme have colonised the brick paving and I have left a lot of the self-sown forget-me-nots for spring colour.  In the centre is my potted pomegranate tree, grown from one of the seeds after I’d enjoyed eating the fruit.

Here is my garden diary entry recording the event.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

After doing some research on the web I cleaned off the pulp from some pomegranate seeds and sowed them in damp seed compost mixed with grit sand & vermiculate sealed in a polythene bag. Will they germinate in the fake conservatory?  Pomegranate is so versatile: I’ve eaten the seeds as they are and sprinkled them on fresh fruit salad & home-grown green salad.  Saved some seed to dry for later sowings.  The tree will survive temps of -15 and drought conditions but probably won’t get enough sun here to produce fruit.  I remember hearing on a gardening programme years ago that it would grow in the UK and make a pretty tree.

My son-in-law sent photos of his mother-in-law’s tongue (sansevieria): he texted ‘your tongue is flowering’!  He’d checked the web and found that they thrive on a bit of neglect and mild, continuous stress. ‘Apparently being root-bound can cause the flowers. Not that I have any idea what that means.’ he wrote.

It just means the roots have run out of space and compost in the pot. In all the time I’ve been growing this plant I have never seen flowers, nor did I realise how sweetly spoken was my tongue!  I found my first sansevieria thrown away at the side of the road in Hong Kong as recorded in another diary entry:

Tuesday 6th September 1977

David & I walked up to the NAAFI.  On the way back I found a Mother-in-law’s Tongue plant that had been thrown away so I rescued a piece for the patio.

You would think that was stress enough, although maybe I rescued it too kindly!  I’ve had others, since, and when they’ve become root-bound or produced offshoots they have distorted their plastic pot and I have read that they can break a ceramic one.

I picked flowers for the house: Queen Elizabeth & Just Joey roses, rosa glauca hips, hydrangea, kaffir lilies, montbretia seedheads and a flowering cyperus.  It’s as well to enjoy the roses indoors now because all these downpours reduce the open ones to mush.  For Friday’s dinner party (torrential rain outside), I snipped off some of the kaffir lilies and rosebuds from the vase to fit my recycled vinegar bottle for the table. The posy still looked fresh on Saturday when I photographed it.

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Sunny days tempt me into the courtyard for my morning coffee while it’s still warm enough to do so.  We’ve had a fair bit of rain this week and it’s getting colder but the sheltered courtyard is warm when the sun comes round.  In the bottom left corner of the photo you can see my rocket seedlings growing in their recycled food container.  These have now been pricked out and are in the kitchen garden.  My daughter’s recycled washing up bowls fit perfectly into the tops of the kitchen garden tubs and the cloche provided a bit of shelter till the seedlings got used to being outside.  The surplus seedlings went into the red orach trough: no sign of those distinctive red-leaved seedlings.  I haven’t given up entirely on the red orach, though: it may well appear in the spring, so I’ve left the label in, along with the rocket label, so I don’t forget.  I’ve been harvesting the beetroot leaves from one trough but the other completely failed to produce anything except weeds.  I’ve weeded it and sown more but if nothing happens I’ll assume the seeds are no longer viable and throw them away.  They are pre-2014 after all! I’ve sown more radish seeds, too, in gaps in my radish bowl.

I’m still lunching off home-grown salad from my garden.  Makes me feel quite smug!  This bowl contains lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sage, parsley. lemon balm, radish & beetroot leaves, rocket, red-veined sorrel, the last Katy apple to be harvested (I’ve eaten the rest) and chive flowers as an oniony-tasting garnish, all topped with home-made spicy, herby croutons for an added crunch. 

Here’s my recipe in case you want to have a go at making them.

Spicy, herby croutons

[A good way of using up stale bits of bread or the end bits of loaves, too small to toast]

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC

Cut the bread into cubes (I save cubed bread in a recycled yogurt tub in the fridge until it’s full and then I make a batch of croutons).  Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a large bowl.  You might need two tablespoons of oil, depending on how much bread you have.  Add half a teaspoon of chilli powder, a pinch of dried thyme and a finely chopped small clove of garlic.  Mix thoroughly then add the bread cubes turning them over and over until well coated.  Spread the croutons on to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for five to seven minutes.  Leave to cool, then store in an airtight jar.  I made an extra jarful so I could give one to my daughter.

Helen has been snapping the flora and fauna in her Scottish garden: a moth, a caterpillar and some wonderfully cheerful sunflowers.  The caterpillar, I believe, is the elephant hawk-moth whose food plants include fuchsia and willowherbs both of which grow in my garden so perhaps I should be looking out for this caterpillar myself.  The huge false eyes are to deter predators.

The snowberry (symphoricarpos albus), growing at the back of the bouldery is covered in big white berries (and bindweed).  Both plants are thugs!  The snowberry does make a good hedge if you have the room and in early summer it bears tiny pink flowers.  I’ve moved the feeding station to the lilac tree.  It’s nearer to the house than the old laburnum stump so if any birds visit I’ll get a better view, especially when the lilac sheds its leaves.  The snowberry and the lilac are deciduous.

Finally, my moth orchid (phalaenopsis) has finished flowering.  Its last two flowers dropped off this weekend so I looked to the web for tips on what to do next:

Reduce watering in winter as they dislike having cold wet roots. Moth orchids can flower a couple of times a year, sometimes from the same flowering stem.  After flowering, encourage more flowers by pruning the flower spike to just above the second node (bump on the stem) from the base.  A new branch will then emerge from that point, together with flower buds [www.yates.com.au].

So that’s what I’ve done.

Tuesday 20 September 2022

I haven’t done much this week, apart from appreciate the flowers that remain.  And there are plenty: at the front, by the entrance is a clump of lavender and there are roses, pink Queen Elizabeth commemorating our much beloved late Queen, and orange Just Joey.

The back garden is full of colour, too: fuchsia Beacon Rosa, Michaelmas daisies, ceratostigma, its bright blue flowers contrasting with the red of its autumn leaves, Japanese anemones, rudbeckia, garlic-flowered chives, all photographed near the house; holly berries and rosa For your Eyes Only snapped together in the long border; cyclamen and arum italicum pictum berries in the bouldery; persicaria amplexicaulus flowering in the shade of the woodland garden; kaffir lilies amongst the foliage of cordyline and gardeners’ garters by the frog pond and water forget-me-not in the fish pond.

Autumn’s a great time to take stock of your garden and plan for next year.  What worked?  What didn’t?  Well, my Autumn Bliss raspberries for one.  I might have to move them.  They are only just beginning to flower but I’d have expected to be enjoying the big ripe fruits by now for at least a month.  

On Tuesday afternoon, as I sat at my keyboard, tapping away, there was a thud at the window.  A woodpigeon chick had landed on the narrow window ledge.  Would it be able to take off again, I wondered.  It was followed on to the ledge by its sibling.  My camera was to hand: I’d just uploaded some photographs.  I got my snaps and the chicks flew off.  You can see that my pelargonium cuttings, in the pot on the inside of the window, have taken.  Nice little plants to pot on for next year.  And there are plenty of pelargoniums still in flower in pots both inside and out.

Later that day I picked the ripe blackberries that my son-in-law had spotted in the woodland garden.  I’d missed them.  Never seen so many fruits!  I’m so glad I didn’t chop them back earlier in the year!  I love blackberries and ice cream and my harvest yielded enough for two servings.

The rocket seeds, sown in the kitchen garden at the beginning of the month are growing nicely and the ones indoors, sown in a recycled food container with lid have also germinated and can be pricked out soon.  I don’t like to be without rocket.  Its peppery taste perks up a green salad no end and there’s plenty of lettuce to be had amongst my containers in the kitchen garden where there is also a tub of sedum Spectabile in flower, providing late nectar for the insects and colour for me!  The creeping campanula has been flowering its head off for ages.

In the heart of Sussex, lies one of the most biodiverse places on Earth – Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden, home to the UK’s largest conservation project, the Millennium Seed Bank and an Elizabethan Mansion. Make a day of it and immerse yourself in 200 hectares of ornamental gardens, woodlands and a nature reserve. 

So says the National Trust’s website and Briony and Daniel did just that, sending me the pictures.  There’s plenty of inspiration  to be had from such grand gardens.  Little pockets of ideas to bring home no matter how small your plot and if you go in all seasons you know what will look good at all times of the year.  I see that Wakehurst has drifts of rudbeckia and I have two such clumps.  They really do brighten the dimmest of days.  Another tip: does your path lead to something to make you continue down the garden? The urn makes a focal point through the gate.  Something to copy!  The paths are clear and wide: a pleasure to walk down, even two abreast.  They look like bonded resin or something that wouldn’t get water-logged so you can walk on them to survey your domain whatever the weather.  I try to keep my paths clear but I must put up with my rickety paving and just walk in single file, carefully, so I don’t trip.  After a torrential downpour the path does get flooded by the woodland arch but it soon drains away and I’m not trapped indoors for long.