As usual, I’m finding the transition from autumn to winter a tricky one. The clocks went back but I’m struggling to accept that the growing season is over. I have not yet wrapped my banana tree up with fleece to protect it from the cold that is inevitably coming. I failed to plant garlic cloves and broad beans in the raised beds before the end of October. And I didn’t plant the spring bulbs I had intended to put in the borders. For goodness sake, I still haven’t cleared away the sweetcorn and courgettes! Clearly, I have a problem.
Until today, I was convinced that my neglect of these garden tasks was caused by my being very busy. But this is self-deluding nonsense. The reality is that I’m experiencing winter denial. I’m like Nero fiddling, while Rome burns. I don’t want the seasons to change. I don’t want the light to go. I don’t want to have put on loads of layers just to do a bit of pottering in the borders. I don’t want my plants to stop growing. I’m not ready. I’d like another month of autumn please, before everything turns brown and grey and shrivelled and crisped.
What I need to do, and very soon too, is pull the metaphorical finger out and get busy. Otherwise I will have regrets, about a dead banana, late broad bean and garlic crops, and a distinct lack of spring colour. So I’ll be rushing out between rain showers to get these jobs done this weekend. If you haven’t planted your spring bulbs yet, don’t despair. It’s still perfectly fine to plant some this month. They’ll just come up a bit later next spring, and in fact, tulips are ideally planted in November anyway.
A task I couldn’t avoid, over half term, was clearing out a fairly large and lovely border full of flowering plants and grasses, to make way for my neighbours’ extension. You may remember me planning and planting up the prairie border this spring. Sadly it had to go, to allow for the building of a new wall on the boundary between our gardens. Thanks to my mum’s help (a herculean effort involving two full days of turf lifting and heavy digging), nearly all of the plants were moved to two new borders that are looking rather good I think, and are no worse for the wear.
During the digging my mum discovered a sleeping hedgehog. We were so excited that we fetched the kids and their friends over from the house where they were playing to see it. Finding a hedgehog is a rare treat that should be lingered over when it happens. It was just a warm, round, prickly bundle, hidden under a pile of leaves between a camellia, an ash stump and the fence. I’m not sure if it was hibernating or just having a daytime sleep, but we moved it to a new, quiet spot, and tried to recreate the safe, warm nest it had made for itself as best we could. At any rate, it will be better off there than in a building site.
There were some casualties. A couple of shrubs, including the camellia, that were too mature and established to survive being transplanted had to be written off. And I’m mourning the loss of my wisteria. It was one of a few special plants that we inherited in the garden, a wonderfully mature specimen that had been left to languish on the ground, after falling or being removed from the fence, sometime in the distant past. It had effectively layered itself at various points along the fence, sending down roots here and there, and growing into a complicated network of thick, twisted stems. We tried to save it. I had an idea that we could cut it back hard, detach it from the fence, and attach it to some kind of temporary structure built of stakes and wires. It proved to be impossible. The main stems were rooted right at the base of the fence, exactly where the trench for the wall’s foundation would need to be dug (see photo above).
I was sad about the wisteria for a day or two… or seven, but I’ve made my mind up to see its loss as an opportunity to grow a better variety on the new wall once it’s built. I’m looking forward to researching different wisterias, and maybe I’ll also choose a pink climbing rose to grow in amongst it. I realise that it will be some years before a new wisteria is growing as vigorously and flowering as prolifically as the old one, but that’s not the end of the world. So here’s to embracing change and facing the arrival of a new season.
The hedgehog (and my mum):