This is the last Thursday of the year for the garden. After this session, we go to the winter timetable, when the garden will open only on Fridays and Saturdays. In the spring, we’ll open on Thursday once more. It’s like an end of term day and the weather adds to this. At first, it’s quite warm, and we have a tea break in the sunshine. And then the sky clouds over, and the cold front the Met office has been forecasting is to the west. We actually see the weather change, happening within quarter of an hour, and feel the drop in temperature.
There’s been lots of leaf fall over the last few days. And we rake the leaves into piles, wondering what to do with them. Last year, we had a leaf mould bin made from wooden palettes, but these were cannibalised to make our large compost area. Some leaves we put there and some in a hollow amongst the buddleia. Leaves rot down slowly, taking a couple of years. Nothing will happen over the winter as it will be too cold for the chemical reactions to take place.
I spot a robin under the sycamore, as I am raking leaves. It has a very red breast. I see it a couple of times more over the afternoon in roughly the same place and wonder if it has taken this territory. Male robin are very territorial and will fight off any others. There have been experiments where they ‘fight’ a bit red cloth on a stick, the redness obviously setting off the impulses to repel an interloper, demonstrating this is an automatic reaction with little logic controlling it.
The pond is quiet and clear. Adults and children still come to it as it has been a site for tadpoles and dragonflies. But these autumn and winter months, there will be little to see. Frogs won’t return till spring and underwater fauna are dormant. Not a single water boatman is to be seen. There’s snails but they hardly thrill. Even the bees have gone. Perhaps they are respecting Thursday closing.
The bright orange California poppies in the small wild flower bed go on forever. Here and there, purple toadflax are in flower. They have a long season too. I really like the sprigs of tiny blue flowers. The yellow variety has become a troublesome weed in the US, and the toadflax moth caterpillar (Calophasia lunula) has been introduced from Europe as a biological control. We spot one, not actually on the purple toadflax, but nearby on some lychnis. We are surprised it’s around so late in the year, but a little research informs us that it will become a chrysalis over the winter, and the toadflax moth will emerge in the spring.
The spider season is over. It doesn’t last long. For a few weeks in late September and earlier this month there were many webs around the garden; some with a spider at the centre. Now they’ve gone, soon to die in the cold. Mating is over, egg sacs laid; and nature doesn’t need them any longer. Off you go, shoo! like the leaves we have been raking. We speak of Mother Nature, and talk about something being natural, meaning good as opposed to artificial. It’s a word I’m wary of, as although I love nature I know she doesn’t give a damn about me. Or you.
I have been writing this weekly blog since early April. I have enjoyed doing as it has necessitated observing the changes week to week, and looking up the flowers, insects and birds that I don’t know. I watched the frogspawn in March become thousands of tadpoles, which thinned out rapidly, and slowly developed limbs in the early summer months. I suspected the dragon fly nymphs in the pond of feasting on them. I watched the flowering of the wild flower bed, which outshone everything in mid summer with white campion, red poppies and blue cornflowers. The garden was busy with bird calls, but they have mostly gone, leaving a few natives to brave the winter.
Kevin, Mark and myself, once we have locked up, go over the Forest Gate Tavern to celebrate the end of the season in the garden. I thank Lia for her photos. She has been coming since late April during my hosting session. We are planning a book together, utilising these blogs and her photographs. It will likely be called Summer in the Garden.