I hate my allotment!

Carloine's dahlias, apples and grapes - Autumn 2017

Dahlias, windfall apples and lots of grapes!

Just when I thought, that’s it for another year, I find dozens of windfall apples, pounds of grapes and enough dahlias to fill a church, all needing to be harvested, sorted, washed, displayed or cooked. Mercifully my fig plant didn’t produce any viable fruits (hate figs, don’t know what all the fuss is about) and the gojiberry, (nasty little fruits, taste like cough syrup) only had about a dozen berries on it so the birds are welcome to those. So here I am, trawling the internet for grape recipes. Here we go: ’35 Grape Recipes‘  Foie gras, peanuts and grapes, hmm I think not. Chilled cucumber, apple and grape gazpacho; that’s more like it. Do I want to make grape jelly? Frankly no, I have enough preserves for breakfast to last me out. This is what happens if you try to palm off excess produce onto your unsuspecting friends; they gratefully make jams, pickles and jellies to give back to you!

caroline's garden autumn 2017

A late show of autumn colour.

There is nothing gradual about the onset of Autumn Colour you know. A long weekend in the National Forest Derbyshire mid-October proved disappointing in that department. Likewise on our return home, a quick inspection of the ‘Grounds’ revealed a rather windswept tableau of same old tired vistas. But come the following morning and hey presto, as if by magic, autumn colour had transformed the garden overnight. I kid you not! Miscanthus to buttery yellow, cotinus to crimson, lythrum to orange. And we’ve had some eerie visual effects created by Hurricane Ophelia; early afternoon light levels dropped to a mustard yellow, a red sun hanging from leaden grey skies, intensifying the seasonal tones with a fluorescent glow. But, here’s a thing! I was having my highlights done at the time, blonde and red streaks, but my hairstylist and I were so busy speculating as to whether the end of the world was nigh, that we left the colour on too long and the blonde streaks turned out pink! So now I have my very own autumn colour! Synchronicity! And as for Hurricane Brian, (really?) no sooner had the autumn colour got into its stride than it was all blown off the trees by the gales. Not Mother Nature’s finest hour.

Giant salvia, melianthus major and cordyline autumn 2017

Giant salvia, melianthus major and cordyline

Anyway, back to the serious world of gardening (never). Having captured the brief flash of autumn colour on camera, (blink and you would have missed it!) it was off with your heads as far as fading perennials were concerned: Down came veronicastrum, eupatorium, sanguisorba & thalictrum, once dominant in the late summer early autumn landscape, now well past their best. Contrary to popular belief I find that this does not deplete the garden, it merely shifts the focus onto current showstoppers: giant salvias, miscanthus & calamagrostis, verbena bonariensis in the back, with magnificent melianthus major (silly thing is just sending up its first flower of the year) and cordyline in the front. In fact I will go as far as to say it’s given the garden a whole new lease of life and I am once again in love with it!

Bidens , tomato 'indigo drops' autumn 2017

Bidens putting on a late show & tomato ‘indigo cherry drops’

When I am truly too wet through to carry on working outside – tell me something, why does it always start pouring down when you are right in the throes of shovelling a huge pile of manure onto the flower beds – I’ve been pottering about happily in the greenhouse.  It’s more like a grown up Wendy House; you can play for hours, sweeping, rearranging and tidying up. Looks like the mice might be back too. Salvia cuttings are in the propagator, sick heucheras are recovering from the ravages of vine weevil. And my tomatoes are a revelation.  T&M Indigo Cherry Drops and Garnet are so prolific, and I found Mountain Magic and Gardeners Delight amongst the cordons, which I must have grown from seed. Such fun! With so many trusses just at the point of ripening I am loath to take them out of the greenhouse beds, but I so desperately need the space for my salvias and cannas to be overwintered. Still, I dare say I am exaggerating. (Moi?) It can wait. Chillies and sweet peppers produced zilch so they can go and anyway, the salvias have only just really got into their stride and the cannas are flowering in the stratosphere they are so tall.

The T&M begonias (why would I get them from anyone else, they are so easy to grow from tubers and last from year to year) are just beginning to get a bit leggy, their vibrant flowers valiantly blooming away on the patio. Friend Anne has read my previous blog and sussed out my accidental theft so this year I shall be labelling them up meticulously. But not just yet, I reckon I can get another week or two out of them.

So recently we attended the London Gardens Society 2017 awards ceremony and jolly-good-buffet-with-plenty-of-wine at The Guildhall, City of London. I spotted horticultural editor, Claire Foggett who used to work for Garden News, and who instigated the Over The Fence feature that I have been writing for since its inception about 12 years ago. (I’ve seen’em come and I’ve seen’em go: I am their longest standing contributor, but who’s bragging). Anyway, who was she chatting to but a very tall gentleman who, as it turns out, was none other than T&M’s very own Managing Director Paul Hansord! He was of course at a distinct disadvantage, as I recognised him instantly from their catalogues and he of course didn’t know me from Adam. Oh and by the way, WE WON AGAIN: Best Small Back Garden 2017. As did friend Diane, who won Best Large Back Garden for the second year running. Good job too, as I had warned her beforehand, “If you win and I don’t, I am not entirely sure I will ever speak to you again!”

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