Autumnal hues and grateful thoughts

Now the nights are drawing in

The sun has lost its power

These conditions trigger dormancy

With loss of leaf and flower

Summers warmth has been and gone

Next week it might be freezin’

Either way I’m not too fussed

For it’s now the curling season.

Aye, the season is achanging right enough. The long hot summer is now a distant memory and the barbeque has been put back in the shed. Away back in February I made the comment on Facebook that this summer would be a scorcher. How right I was. I must admit I was relieved when the weather broke – the water bill has been horrendous.

As usual the bedding plants responded according to their own climate preference. Geraniums and Cape Daisies revelled in the high temperatures and blazing sunlight but don’t look so happy now. The big, blousy Petunias got over-excited and are now spent, however their compact cousins, Calibrachoa, have maintained a good show and even now are continuing to add cheery colour to the patio planters.

The Nonstop Begonias have, again, lived up to their name now that the weather is a bit cooler and dull. I expect them to keep blasting out a vibrant display all the way up to the first hard frost.

The herbaceous border is starting to look a bit tired although the late-flowering Rubeckia Goldsturm is still giving a golden glow from its yellow daisy-like flowers. A new addition that I planted this year was Salvia Amistad. This has certainly given a ‘wow factor’ with scented foliage and long rods of dark purple flowers. I’m a bit unsure of its hardiness though – we’ll see if it survives the winter.

I do believe that Mother Nature does balance out seasonal vagaries, it’s just a worry that the vagaries are becoming so extreme. Several folk have commented on the health of the beech trees in the area – a significant number have shown rapid decline over the past three months. My theory is that this is a root problem caused by water imbalance rather than any nasty foreign disease.

If you consider that beech trees are surface-rooters they may have suffered from waterlogging during the latter part of the constantly wet 2017. This would produce a fair amount of root damage giving an adverse effect to the ‘drinking’ ability of the trees during the drought of 2018 resulting in branch die-back or, in severe cases, total plant death. A shame to see these old beauties in distress.

Now that autumn is here and flower choice is diminishing so the glory of berries and turning foliage comes to the fore. Blackbirds are steadily working their way through the Pyracantha fruit – interesting note that this is their first choice on the menu. Next item to be devoured will be the crab apples. There has been a heavy crop this year. The variety John Downie has been particularly abundant. A nice hardy tree that looks good all season long with crisp white flowers in the spring and branches laden with red and yellow fruit now. These bitter wee apples are an ideal source of pectin for setting jam – not good to eat raw though!.

I wrote, earlier this year, that we seemed to have missed out on springtime in 2018. The weather turned from ‘Beast from the East’ cold to ‘Go West with my Vest’ hot in a very short period of time. Hopefully autumn will be allowed to progress at a leisurely pace and we can see the full spectacle of the change in colour of the landscape. I planted a maple tree called Autumn Blaze two years ago and, as the name suggests, it makes a stunning feature in any garden during late September – early October.

Two important events occur towards the end of September.

The first is the realisation that summer has now finished and the patio planters need a make-over. So out goes the Fuchsia centrepiece and the trailing Petunias and in comes the conical conifer (or variegated Holly) with a side order of winter Pansies, heathers and trailing Ivy.

The second (and just as thrilling) event is the start of the curling season. Some of you may know that I am a recent convert to this pastime (I still play as ‘lead’) but I approach this sport with a fair degree of enthusiasm together with a lesser and variable amount of skill!

I’m particularly looking forward to the forthcoming season as I was unable to take part in the nail-biting climax to the league games at Greenacres in March due to developing sepsis (plus pneumonia) and spending all of that month in hospital at Kilmarnock. April was spent recuperating at home and I have only started driving again this month. Sepsis is a horrible thing. It doesn’t send postcards – it sneaks up on you like a sly farmyard collie. You don’t see it coming. I’m eternally grateful that I have made a complete recovery – although there are still tests to be done.

In my personal experience one of the main after effects of sepsis (caused by an extreme E coli infection) has been mental fatigue. I lost my ‘mojo’.

As a result, and due to the timing of the illness, the vast majority of my planned vegetable produce remained in the seed packet. I had nothing to take to the local flower show earlier in the month. Shocking!

Sepsis is a silent killer or life changing event. I count myself extremely lucky to have survived. Twelve days in an induced coma is not an experience I wish to repeat or have my relatives witness again.

For now I, and the garden, will have a rest. Maybe I’ll have a browse through the seed catalogues and make plans for next year.


General Points

The growth on evergreen shrubs is starting to firm up. A good opportunity to take cuttings. Cotoneaster, Escallonia, Hebe, Pyracantha etc. will root well now.

Tidy up herbaceous plants, clear out any slugs and snails that are lurking in there. Remove seed heads from tall species like Delphinium and Lupin

If the veg’ patch is empty give it a rough forking over and a topping of farmyard manure. A 25 kg bag should cover 8 square metres. Let the winter weather work at it.

Autumn sales are now on at your local garden centre. An idea opportunity to pick up a specimen plant at a bargain price.