Derek – Friday 1st October 2021

We had an Indian summer through September with temperatures above average until the last few days. But the weather demon commands: Enough! No more pretending, autumn is autumn not a pretend summer.

The temperature has dropped to mid teens, but at least we have no worries about water with the rainfall we are having. The cooler weather has shunted summer flowers off stage, bright and ebullient as they were, but their act is over. I wander the garden to see what blooms remain.

There’s fading goldenrod in a raised bed in the centre, a few pink roses in the arch, a scattering always hang on. Just beyond them, near the side gate, are Japanese anemones, surprisingly healthy, like football fans in their season. And others too have come to the fore. There’s the ice plant ‘Autumn Joy’ – the flowers a bright red, reminiscent of New England maples in the fall. Marigolds go on, so long as you deadhead them. In vain persistence, the plant keeps on trying to set seed as we doggedly remove the old heads. There’s a wrecked rudbeckia by the side gate, as sad as the sunflowers in the raised bed near the greenhouse, sagging like the elderly of the elderly.

In contrast, we have a tin bath of violas, bright, smily infants, yellow, white, blue and purple, seedboxes. They will flower through the winter months, which is puzzling when there are no insects around to fertilize them. I suspect they make the best of autumn, just hang on through the winter months, and are there and ready as spring comes in.

By the desk at the side gate is the scarlet river lily with its six-petalled pinkish red flowers hanging on. It’s from South Africa and has a confusion of names. Botanically it was Schizostylis coccinea, but is now Hesperantha coccinea. A former common name was kaffir lily, but kaffir is now offensive, a derogatory term by whites for their black workers.

Our walnut tree to the rear of the buddleia, near the new pergola, has single nut at the top of the tree. The nut is green, smooth and spherical, about the size of a conker in its green shell. The single nut makes me think of the nursery rhyme:


I had a little nut tree,

And nothing would it bear,

But a silver nutmeg and a golden pear.


The king of Spain’s daughter

Came to visit me,

And all for the sake

Of my little nut tree.


It is said that the rhyme refers to the visit of Juana of Castile, daughter of King Ferdinand of Spain, to Henry VII’s court in 1506 for possible marriage. The marriage didn’t happen as she was not in good health. There are various endings to the rhyme. One where the fruit is given as a present to the princess, but as the modern Spanish royal family has been ensnared with financial corruption, let’s go for:


I skipped over water,

I danced over sea,
And all the birds in the air

couldn’t catch me.

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