After a very busy November I finally found myself at home on a fresh, bright, still day and decided it was time for The Big Garden Tidy Up. I’ve always sworn by the adage that there is no such thing as the wrong weather, just the right clothes (or something like that anyway). So, togged up appropriately, I strode outside with implements in hand to – Leaf Fall Hell! As I stepped into the garden I felt the Silent Scream come upon me. I have never seen so many dead leaves, and I wouldn’t care, but the majority of them aren’t even from our trees! I can only assume that last year the wind must have blown them elsewhere.

Where to start? I decided to tackle the worst bit first. Have you ever tried raking dead leaves out of heavily planted gravel? You have to create a pile and then sieve the gravel back out of said pile before finally bagging up the leaves. Not fun. Next I decided to tackle the rampant ivy colonising the corner behind the apple tree. This task was quite satisfying as it happens, dragging the tendrils out of the tree canopy and cutting back to a nice hedgy silhouette. As the trellis backs onto the greenhouse the gutters where choked with leaf litter and yet more ivy was starting to run over the roof, creating a cavern inside! All was going well until my thankfully gloved hand touched upon something cold and clammy. No more the Silent scream! Having unearthed several hibernating frogs during clearance my first thought was dead amphibian. Girding myself up I reached back into the gutter and retrieved – the 6″ rubber lizard!

Caroline clearing up leaves and one of the many frogs she found

Caroline clearing up leaves and one of the many frogs she found

That lizard is haunting me. Last autumn I unearthed it from the leaf litter under the hydrangea petiolaris and thought I had hurled it over the fence from whence it came (junior neighbours) so unless it crawled back under its own volition (it’s eerily lifelike), I have a very poor aim!

Somewhat unnerved I decided to clear the roof terrace. Open air, bright sunshine, back into the land of the living. Straightforward apart from one thing: how to dispose of the ricinus? So, well gloved up, I chopped it up into manageable pieces and bagged it up. However, by now the recycle bin was virtually full so – do I stuff it in the top and risk poisoning the dustmen? Oh no, I delve deep into the bin, emptying half of its contents onto the pavement, so that the ricinus can be safely buried beneath. Lifting and transporting the three cannas (picture The Three Tenors haha!) down the ship’s ladder was no joke; they had tripled in size so that only cut-down black dustbin sacks were big enough to contain their massive root balls. I am having to overwinter them in the summer house with the colocasia and banana as there is no room in the greenhouse raised bed in case I disturb the mice.

The beach huts at Southwold, Suffolk and David's new water feature idea

The beach huts at Southwold, Suffolk and David’s new water feature idea

As I continued to sweep, prune and mulch the borders into submission I reflected upon the passing year. Our most recent adventure was a long weekend in Southwold, Suffolk with good friends Amanda and Michael. Southwold in November brings its own unique meteorological challenges. France has its Mistral, Lybia has its Ghibli. The horizontal wind driven Southwold rain that surges across the gorse dunes towards Walberswick deserves its own name too! In summer, amble across the dunes, surrounded by the delicious aroma of coconut emanating from the gorse, and pay your 20p to be rowed across the estuary by the small family run boat service. But in the winter even they hang up their oars! So a two mile walk becomes a four mile trek and of course being stalwarts we were not to be deterred. A refuelling stop at The Bell Inn to break the round trip certainly helped!

The beach huts at Southwold are the inspiration for our new summer house theme, and we had great fun picking up little nautical whimsies from the gift shops. The cheeky Heath Robinsonesque clock water feature on the pier gave David food for thought regarding his next water feature. Take a close look every quarter hour and you will be shocked or hysterical with laughter depending on your temperament!

Caroline's raised bed decorated for the festive season

Caroline’s raised bed decorated for the festive season

David installed our exterior festive lights at the end of November before a hand operation put him out of action over the holiday period. The twinkling red lights threaded through the undergrowth in the raised bed out front look lovely, but the multi-coloured flashers in the eucalyptus out back were like Blackpool illuminations (nothing wrong with Blackpool – right plant right place or some such analogy). But when he reprogrammed them to be static, the neighbour’s young daughter complained, so now they are fading on and off tastefully!

So it only remains for me to wish you all Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy the photo of me in action. We’ve had Gardening In your Nightie, Gardening in your Pyjamas and now we have – Gardening in Your Curlers! xx

A view of London from Hampstead Heath

A view of London from Hampstead Heath

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