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Opportunities of Autumn

Autumn is unusual this year seeming very warm as the weeks go on. The trees are reluctant to drop their leaves after a burst of rain following drought, they appear to enjoy the reprieve.

My summer flowers are still blooming alongside reddening vines and some trees.

Autumn is an opportunity. On my quest to manage my grief autumn’s beauty inspires and brings new reflection. What has changed in the last year? What have I achieved? Do my previous wants and wishes still apply?

Autumn is supposed to be time to close down the garden ready for winter.

Clear fallen leaves, paths, take cuttings and protect fragile plants for the winter. Oh and pruning.

Officially I have never opened or brought summer order to the garden, it has survived pretty much despite me. I only started gardening a couple of years ago.

My husband used to do it and as we never agreed on technique, colour style shape or position of plant, I let him get on with it. The seasons turned with minimal input from me. Occasionally I would get the urge to garden and plant a few things but I would get distracted by a family or work related need and forget. In my garden it was very much survival of the fittest, things either survived or not, they got little support, I may water them for 3 weeks, and the first winter I might mulch them and maybe feed them, after that they were on their own to prosper or die depending on something other than me. I would certainly not be digging things up every year to make sure they over winter. Before my husband and Dad became ill I had a bout of gardening vigour. I bought a number of plants and roots from a newspaper and planted them when they arrived. By the following spring I had forgotten all about them and actually didn’t venture much into the garden for the next 4 years. When I finally did I noticed I had a number of plants which I had no recall of and it took me months to remember planting them. I had a love lies weeping, rhubarb, and agapanthus all doing marvellously despite my husband admitting that he had strimmed the rhubarb and agapanthus or years not realising what they were and thinking they were interloping from next doors garden.

In Dad’s garden the fight continues to bring a modicum of order to the madness of the garden. All I'm trying to do is clear back the invaders at the moment- ivy, brambles, ash and Elder.

This year I have opportunity yet again to clear back. The summer growth has stopped and it's still warm enough to do the easier tasks needing me to kneel, such as digging out ivy in the hedge bottoms and digging out yet more bramble roots in the vegetable garden, lawns and orchard. There are many, many brambles, they are shooting up approximately every 8” apart as far as I can see. There’s no point in trying to cut them down and spray them, I tried that for 2 years, they come back bigger and badder every year and they have the advantage of the garden being so over grown in summer that I can’t get to them to cut them back which allows them free reign to do as they please.

Brambles can be burned safely in autumn as long as it isn’t too dry. I plan to build a fire pit eventually and hopefully I can make good use of it. I can spend time cutting back undergrowth and reach more suckers and saplings to uproot. It's beautiful watching the leaves turn colour and fall and seeing the structure of the trees reveal themselves once again.

Over the last couple of years I have been taking photo’s for my blog and just as a historical record, in case I can no longer do this. It’s amazing to see the changes in a year to the garden. The amount of growth each spring and summer, the amount of leaves shed each autumn, the shapes of the trees and bushes slowly changing over time, with or without my help.

Autumn is a beautiful season, it cheers us with warm, sun draped days, foggy mornings, which clear to sharp cold days and eases into winter slowly.

This autumn I endeavour to make the effort to prepare at least some of the garden for winter and allow it to welcome in the new year with some, small amount of grace.

Going back to the opportunities, I spent a lot of the earlier year caring for my mother, this also gave me time alone to tackle aspects of gardening I can do alone, as I need someone with me to do the harder things as I don't think it safe to do tree pruning and felling alone in case of accident, likewise sometimes I'm just not strong enough or do not have enough arms to do things alone and need someone else to help me. I have managed many hours of hedge, ivy clearance, not that you can tell from a glance, unless I were to present photographic evidence- not even I'm obsessive enough to do that.

I have however forfeited other activities, I love water activities and have not done very much of this this year as a result of so much time dedicated to the garden.

My wishes still remain that I need to continue with the garden, it gives me pleasure to pit my wits against nature and try to restore at least a small amount of order tot eh garden so that I can see what it used to be, however over the year I have begun to consider that it may be able to become something else, not just a picture of what it was. I haven't any strong ideas yet, just reflections. Lets wait and see what spring brings.

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