Friday, 31 October 2014

Ornamental grasses

Whether it’s due to the autumn sun showing them off to particuarlly fine effect, or to the inescapbable truth that almost everything else in the borders is either starting to look a little tired, or has turned to mush, October has been a month when ornamental grasses have reigned supreme in the garden.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Neighbourhood watch

“We can offer you a cup of tea in a bit,” said Roger, his eyes twinkling as his wife, Elizabeth, finished his sentence. “But I’m afraid if it comes to a drone attack or a CIA sniper, you’re on your own!”. We were standing in their front garden, discussing a phone conversation Roger had just had with one of their neighbours.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Sussex Prairie Gardens

This blog entry should really have been posted in September, but I confess I was waylaid by pelargonium cake. And the rest, I’m afraid, is history

It was the big daises that did it. My spur-of-the-moment acquisition of a car boot full of jolly flowers (which you can read about here) had started a minor obsession, and I spent much of September day-dreaming about late season perennials. It’s one thing to start small, buying a few plants of a handful of varieties – this can have quite a transformative effect on a garden in late summer, and one of the most exciting aspects about these plants is that many welcome division, so that in time you can increase your stock, fill your borders and still probably have enough to give away to friends. So I’ve nothing whatsoever against starting small; I can be patient when it comes to my own garden. But that didn’t mean I was without a hankering to see what someone else had had the opportunity to do with perennial planting en masse – great swathes of identical flowers, interwoven with drifts of complementary forms and textures, with generous clumps of ornamental grasses for good measure. Such was the picture in my head, and so I took myself off to Sussex Prairie Gardens, about an hours drive away.

Friday, 10 October 2014

October showers

A brief interlude between downpours in the woodland garden
“Unsettled” is the word the weather folk use to describe the kind of conditions we’re experiencing at the moment, as if the restless sky can’t quite make up its mind; fickle, antsy. We like to know what to expect – “what's the weather going to be like today?” – so we can be prepared, and dress accordingly. Unpredictable conditions somehow offend our sense of propriety, causing us to tut, glancing upwards and ruefully remarking, “it can’t make up it’s mind today”. One moment the world is bathed in golden sunshine, the next, we’re running for cover, struggling back into waterproofs which only a moment ago were too warm to wear. I’ve spent much of the week doing some kind of frenzied gardener’s strip-tease, leaving piles of clothes around the garden, then dashing back to retrieve them when needed. This kind of palaver is frustrating for those of us doomed to wander beneath the sky on two legs, who choose our interchangeable pelts according to what’s going on above. But, down below, the ground welcomes the rain, and it strikes me how much better are our gardens at accepting the vagaries of the weather than their owners. And it’s not just our gardens, but the surrounding landscape which demonstrates a supreme resourcefulness in adapting to conditions; a resourcefulness not always entirely appreciated by the gardener. At least the badgers have stopped digging up the lavender bed in search of juicy earthworms; a new habit they'd developed during the unusually dry September.

This thing – this annoyance we feel during showery weather – comes down to a problem of perception. We consider this weather changeable. But what if it isn’t? We see it shifting back and forth from one state to another. Perhaps instead, it’s in a fixed state of being, and that state is...changeable. If we’re discomforted by the unpredictability of the weather, will we be less so if we predict it will be unpredictable? Rather like the current season, neither quite summer nor yet autumn, we are in transition, somewhere in between, and that is how it is. That, as with most things in life, is how it usually is – somewhere between two things. You’d think we’d get used to it.

Strong winds, sudden downpours and some minor inconvenience with clothing. It’s a small price to pay for the sight of the clouds scudding across the sun and the kind of chill, damp freshness in the air I’ve been longing for all year. And even while these thoughts occur to me, I’m forced to take cover in the land rover from a sudden downpour of particularly biblical fury, rain streaming down my coat and boots and pooling in the footwell. Through the fogged up windscreen, I see a fox loping across the garden, unconcerned, perfectly dressed for the weather. I watch it disappear through the hedgerow into the fields, with something approaching envy.