“But it’s a long, long while
From May to December
And the days grow short
When you reach September”
September is such a special month – it starts warm and golden-green, with the first harvested fields. Apple trees, with shafts of sunlight glinting through their laden branches, look like jewelled Faberge creations casting lengthening shadows. There is still a touch of summer and yet slowly, imperceptibly, that steals away leaving cooler, darker evenings.
The remaining long grass stems are bleached and scrawny and the berries begin to ripen on tree and bush – bramble and rowan, hawthorn and rose hip – the hips and haws of our childhood. Who picks them now?Rowan jelly and hawthorn wine,rose hip syrup and bramble,and of course apple crumble. Delicious, evocative names of bygone days.
I remember Autumn Sundays spent dragging baskets full to brimming with brambles disintegrating into juice as we trudged them home; balancing jelly bags on upturned chair legs to let the precious, beetroot-red liquid drip into large china bowls and the satisfaction of seeing neat rows of glistening jars filled with red, orange and purple shades of jams and jellies created magically from these rich and wonderful hedgerow fruits filling the winter larder.
But it’s not just humans who reap this tasty harvest. A few days ago, as I was unlocking the gate to the main drive of the House, I heard a fluttering noise and a loud chattering of sparrows. When I looked about, there was a flock of these cheeky little birds in a nearby field, hopping from thistle to fence and back again, feeding on the seeds of the thistledown. The older birds were expertly showing the youngsters how to balance and feed on the wobbly stems and the young trainees were clearly finding it a challenge.
Tiny Blue Tit
Another day, I recently watched as a tiny blue tit landed on a drooping bunch of elderberries and, giving a clear tug, with all its might plucked a juicy ripe berry from the bunch and then having swallowed it, cleaned its beak on the remaining stem and sat there quite content with its feathers all fluffed up.
As I write this, we have almost reached the Equinox, the point when our days become shorter and Autumn officially begins. With the shortening days, tiny birds and animals are busy searching for food but thankfully there are plenty of berries, nuts and fat spiders to keep them going for a while yet.
There is plenty to do in the garden as well. I have been sorting out spring bulbs, clearing out window boxes and containers, checking roses and bushes to make sure they won’t be rocked by strong winds, picking the final tomatoes, cutting the grass and looking out the fleece to wrap around tender shrubs before the colder nights and first frosts come.
Make sure that your containers are kept well-watered(but not over-watered) during windy weather. The wind can desiccate your shrubs, e.g. causing camellias to drop their buds before Spring and dry soil makes your pots lighter and more likely to blow over. If your tree or shrub is tender then you need to think about putting the plant in a sheltered place such as an unheated greenhouse or even your conservatory before the temperature drops too low. You might need to insulate the pot or stand it on pottery ‘feet’ to keep it frost proof.
This is a good time to visit open gardens where you will see a wide selection of trees planted for autumn colour and get some tips on how to extend the flowering life of your borders. There is nothing more stunning than a maple tree in full autumn dress backlit by a low sun. It can look as though it is on fire. And who can resist walking through the carpet of fallen leaves that begins to gather on paths and lawns.
Geese are Back
Today I heard a familiar sound and looking up saw that unmistakable ‘V’ shaped sight of a skein of geese flying overhead. These birds flew north in the Spring and now they have returned to spend their winter with us. A sure sign that Autumn is finally here.
Blog by Margaret from our Volunteer Gardening Team