Derek – Friday 20th August 2021

Autumn is in the air, unavoidably, as the earth makes its yearly journey around the sun. Though the weather can make it seem as if summer is extended or autumn has charged in earlier. This year looks like we are having the latter, but we mortals are playthings of the gods, and things may yet change. It is not for nothing that the biggest computer in the UK is owned by the Met Office.

The wildflower bed has made half a recovery. Through the tumbled plants, the red and yellow poppies keep on coming. Blue borage has been going on forever, and the bright yellow of corn marigolds is a delight.

Japanese anemones around the garden are in bloom, taking over when most of the summer flowers have faded. To the rear of the buddleia, near the picnic table, the grass and wild flowers have been left to grow. Black medick with its dome of tiny yellow flowers has taken advantage, along with the purple toadflax and wild carrot. Wild flowers are generally not as showy as garden flowers, unless they are assembled in thousands like bluebells in the woods, or wood anemones, or Wordsworth’s golden daffodils. They take a little more looking, but it is worth the effort. You can enjoy what your neighbours are eager to pull out.

The Americana display on the sleepers is past its heyday. The quinoa leaves are full of leaf miners, though they have full heads of seed. The dwarf maize is disappointing, the long leaves brown at the edges and sulky, showing their disdain at being planted in a cardboard box. The sugar cane is doing well, in spite of the cooler weather. It certainly won’t grow to the heights of tropical splendour, but it is healthy and leafy, looking quite like the maize should.

The peanuts would like it to be 10 degrees warmer, and refuse to flower. So nuts to you. I got fed up covering the peppers every night to protect them from snails, but the plants are OK now. A little chewed, but we have peppers, small as yet, mostly green but one orange. There’s next to nothing left of the dwarf beans. The snails have massacred them. The sweet potatoes have also been attacked, but have enough leaf to make me believe there is something beneath the soil. The spuds are fine and the cherry tomatoes too, both immune from the choosy gastropods.

In the raised square bed, we have butternut squash and sunflowers. For weeks I covered the plants each night, but not before most of my sunflowers had been munched to soil level. I compensated by snaffling a few sunflowers left over from a plant sale and growing some seed I found scattered below the bird feeders. Although still being attacked, the butternut squash and sunflowers are big enough to take it. They are a fine pairing; the former squat and rambling sideways, the squash like small marrows, with the sunflowers rising through them at various levels as they are various sorts. Five are currently flowering, which could double in a week or so.

I have been looking closely at the sunflower blooms, as the seeds in them are said to be packed in accordance with the Fibonacci series. This goes:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377 etc

Each number is made by adding the two before it. So 8 is 3 + 5, 13 is 5 + 8 and so on. It is all to do with packing as many seeds in the flower circle as possible. This is not to say the sunflower is good at maths, but a flower which packs in more seeds will have more offspring and so be favoured by evolution.

That’s the theory. Let’s test it. I take a bloom, and I count the curves going clockwise. 34, a Fibonacci number. So far so good, but I am befogged trying to count the other way. I know what I should get, the number before it in the series, 21, or the one after it, 55, but I go cross-eyed and the best I can get is 52. It is tricky following the curves and one website tells me that the series isn’t always followed. I won’t say this one doesn’t follow Fibonacci as I kept getting lost on my counts.

The sunflower centre is this week’s photo. You might like to tell me what number of curves you get, clockwise and anticlockwise. Best of luck.

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