Derek – Thursday 10th October 2019

A very autumn day, overcast, about 15ºC, when I first arrive. We have few visitors until four o’clock, and then we get mothers and toddlers, and some primary schoolboys who play with our Duplo. Five girls come from Forest Gate Community School. They settle down at a table and have a very civilised picnic. We leave them to themselves, as they have come to the garden as it is a quiet place where no one will bother them. We are pleased to accommodate them.

We decide to clean all our tools. At a rough estimate, we have a hundred or so, from the smallest trowel to the shovels. They hardly ever get cleaned, often put back muddy. There is an excuse for such slack behaviour; we have no running water. But today is wash day. We take them all out of the container, every spade, shovel, trowel, rake, scarifier, mattock, pickaxe, and odd items that are supposedly intended for weeding. We wash them, one by one, in our now plentiful water. Then leave them to dry. Once dry, some need wiping, we rub them with cheap cooking oil. This shines them up and protects them from moisture over the winter.

There are clusters of Michaelmas daisies scattered around. Their blue flowers are as pale as the autumn sun. There are a few purple toadflax, and a bright, glowing marigold, near the centre gate, that seems to have forgotten the time of year. The rose arch has a number of pink roses braving the season.

We still have spiders. I note garden spiders and wolf spiders. They will have mated and laid their eggs by now. The first frost will kill them, leaving an egg ball that will hatch in the spring. It’s all part of the cycle.

Sycamore leaves are turning yellow. In the US, the tree is called the sycamore maple. All the maples, including the sycamore, belong to the genus Acer. They are wind pollinated with green, barely noticeable, flowers in spring. They have no need to be showy as they don’t need insects for pollination.

I notice lots of sycamore seeds at the bottom of the tree; they are nearly all single. Doubles on the branch, they mostly separate before they fall. All that is needed is for one of these seeds to survive to adulthood for the tree to have kept its numbers up. In terms of parenting though, this is utter neglect. A case of ‘survive if you can, I don’t care.’

The sycamore seed consists of the wing, necessary to get them away from the tree, and the seed head. In the seed head are an embryo and a food store. All that is needed for germination is warmth, water and air. Germination could even happen on a paving stone, but the plant would soon die, as it has to root and grow the first leaves to sustain itself once the food store has run out.

Those seeds close to the tree, even if they germinate, cannot possibly mature, as the parent tree overshadows them and will stifle their growth by taking light and water. It is essential to get well away from ‘home’ to stand any chance in a risk-ridden world.

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