The early signs of autumn are appearing. Cyclamen have popped their heads up out of the ground, bare-stemmed and without their heart-shaped leaves yet. Apples are starting to fall and the plums are turning the most delightful shade of rosy pink. The rest of the veg have slowed down now with the arrival of colder temperatures, and there is mildew on the courgette leaves. There is a dampness in the air, brown leaves and a few conkers on the ground. Our morning walk to school involves much dodging of slugs and snails that are enjoying sliding along the wet pavements.
We harvested a satisfying trug full of apples yesterday from our still quite small tree. These are Cox’s Orange Pippin, I think (the tag was half broken off so not entirely certain), and are quite delicious. They are crisp, juicy and sweet, with a lovely yellowish skin. Sadly, the other tree (another eating apple which a rough, bronze-coloured skin when ripe) is completely bare. It’s not unexpected – there was absolutely no blossom on it early in the year, so I knew there wouldn’t be any fruit. I’ve done a bit of research on this, and think it may be because it is in too much shade, so I am considering relocating it to a sunnier spot.
Our old plum tree is truly laden this year. The whole area around the tree smells sweetly acrid from the slowly rotting, fallen fruit, even though I regularly collect them up for the brown bin to discourage wasps. We seem to get a good crop every other year. From what I understand, a large plum tree can exhaust itself by producing so much fruit one year that it needs a year to recover before cropping so well again. It’s effectively a biennial harvest. A couple of years ago I devised a ‘plum picker’ to reach the highest and best plums. It’s basically a long stout bamboo cane with half a 2l plastic bottle stuck on the end. A small V shape cut into the edge of the bottle means you can use it to coax off more reluctant plums.
The plums are quite large and sweet enough to eat straight from the tree but the slight tartness of the skins makes for very tasty cooked dishes. We have tried plum crumble (amazing!) and roasted plums with ice cream (so good!) Next on the list is one of these recipes from The Kitchen Cooperative in The Guardian this week. I love the sound of the plum and nutmeg cobbler, and the plum mostarda.
We have a damson tree too but the birds seem to strip these pretty quickly, and I am happy to let them. Damsons are certainly a lovely treat but they need cooking, in my opinion, and being so small are very fiddly to prepare. I prefer to buy my damson jam or chutney from a shop.
In the borders, the Japanese anemones are flowering, standing tall like pale pink sentinels among the greens of the ferns. The roses are having a second flush of growth and have a few imperfect blooms, ruined here and there by the rain and wind. They have benefited from the generous mulch of rotted manure I put at their bases a few weeks ago.
I’ll be making the most of the milder weather that’s forecast for tomorrow and Friday to do some gardening. I’ll be weeding (all this rain has given a boost to weeds), putting manure on the borders and cutting back some old growth. I don’t like the garden to look too neat at this time of year because this season’s garden is all about decay and dying back for me. There is so much beauty in the change that it would be a shame to cut it all away. So I shall be making subtle cut backs only. I’ll also be planting foxgloves that I have been growing on from plug plants in any shady gaps. Soon, it will be time to start planting spring bulbs.
These next two days may be last of the warm weather before autumn really hunkers down, so I recommend you make the most of it and get into your garden. I’m also planning to go to one of the Heritage Open Day events at The Plantation Garden or Bishop’s House Garden in Norwich. Here’s hoping that the weather holds out over the weekend.