At the start of September our own swallows upped and left for their long journey south.
But as compensation, for at least the next ten days or so, we had mixed groups of swallows passing through the gardens and feeding around ‘The Broccoli Tree’.
‘The Broccoli Tree’ is actually a beautiful, mature sycamore, easily 150 years old or more, growing in the neighbouring field. She stands tall and proud, her outline beautifully moulded by the weather and looking for all the world like a huge, upright crown of broccoli!
On hot, sunny days, cows and their calves gather under the spreading boughs and during torrential downpours they run for the generous cover it provides against the driving rain. But it seems to be a magnet for migrating swallows and their young. Each morning a new group of migrating swallows would arrive, then, carefully perching their young on the nearby telephone wire, hawthorn branch or arm of the nearest fruit cage, the adults would spend a few hours twisting and tumbling, darting and diving around the crown of the tree, beneath her branches and all over , feeding and catching insects then relaying them to the ever-hungry young, sometimes even in mid-flight. Soon, as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone and silence returned till the next day.
The vegetable garden is winding down now after a busy Summer. We have had an amazing apple crop and last week we harvested all our squashes and pumpkins before any early frost has a chance to kill them off or damage the fruits. Some of the pumpkins are only just ripe so we have put them all on racks in the polytunnels where they will get the benefit of the sun’s warmth and light whilst being protected from rain, wind and possible frost. We have managed to grow some enormous pumpkins and one recently featured in a ‘Guess the Weight’ competition during the Harvest Fayre, weighing in at an astonishing 38lbs (17.23 kgs). Quite how it reached that size and weight during such a dry summer is really a mystery. I am beginning to wonder if perhaps the fairies were secretly watering our crop by night!
September is a time of harvest but it is also a time to appreciate all your hard work in your garden on one of those stunning days when the sun is warm, there isn’t a cloud in the rich blue sky and the air is still. The end of the Summer is a good time to have a walk around outside and linger for a while. Enjoy the things that have worked – a good design, a special plant, a successful combination of shrubs and flowers and then notice the things that could be improved. Are there enough flowers in the autumn border or do I have gaps? What would I really like to grow in that corner? Is that shrub getting too big and crowding out the plant below? Do I really want all those geraniums? Would a planted container add a focus to the doorway? It is a rare gardener who doesn’t have some plan or future project in mind.
Although it is your garden, it is also a mini nature reserve and whilst I don’t expect many of you are harbouring an unknown herd of elephants or a family of gibbons, few of us really know what is out there, living in our backyards. So, as a rule of thumb, always leave a corner undisturbed for insects and wildlife, build a bug-hotel, here’s how, or include nest-boxes in your biggest shrubs, try to include a dish of clean water ( especially in summer) and grow plants that will feed bees and butterflies then not only will you have a beautiful, flower-filled garden, but it will be alive!