August: Dew on rose hips

August is a funny old month. I’ve always thought of it as being the absolute peak of summer: the UK’s warmest temperatures, a full month of school summer holidays and gardens at their most fully grown, exuberant selves.

Wildflowers edge the new pond

But it turns out I’m really very wrong. The only bit I’ve got right all these years is the summer holiday bit, and even that’s only true for the south of England.

Most of our roses are the old type that only flower once, so we really appreciate the repeaters right now

Of course, growing up in the UK, I’ve always been very aware of the seasons. The year starts in cold, cold winter, with just the odd bulb breaking the ground to suggest some life in the year to come. More and more reassuring signs appear over the weeks, with bud burst on the trees eventually turning the world green once more.

Bees loving the Stachys palustris

But being as close to nature as I now am, the cycles of change are so much more definite, so much more marked and, in the case of summer, so much earlier in the year than I’d thought it to be.

Good old Verbena bonariensis with its towering purple mist

I guess it was a case of the school calendar telling me summer was August from the get-go; deviating from this learnt fixture was then a big barrier to break. Although, a barrier that was well and truly broken when we moved to Australia. 

Just gorgeous to be able to pick flowers this summer from the new cutting garden

Oh, what fun I had, trying to work out when to do which tasks in the garden. Not only did I have to learn that the warmer, dryer weather meant you couldn’t just add six months to your UK timings, but I also had an annoying habit of my brain subconsciously making the seasonal timing shift but then consciously applying one too. With that double adjustment I’d be right back at UK timings, thoroughly confused with what on earth was going on. 

Lythrum salicaria has happily made itself at home at the edge of the pond

Over the years, I’ve increasingly realised what a complex thing the brain is. So much goes on in there that you’re not really aware of. But I was definitely born thinking that things awaken at the start of the year, grow and flourish during it and then settle down to rest at the end. That’s the order of the world that makes sense to me.

Early morning dew

But, to my utter surprise this month, despite us having a few days over thirty degrees, August found me discovering dew on rose hips early one morning. Dew? Rose hips? Aren’t those both things that happen in autumn or winter? 

Excitingly, our first beans are almost ready

But apparently, no, that’s not how it works; the surprises and my adjustment to the seasons seemingly continue. Thank you, Australia, for giving me a practice run!

We seeded the area around the pond late, so the flowers here are still in full force

This month also saw the putting to bed of the wildflower meadow for the year. I’d been so sure this was the one area we would be happy to tidy up by August; the early wildflowers spent and the now straw-coloured grasses collapsing under their own weight.

Bye bye meadow

But it was a surprisingly melancholic experience, Paul and I both working on it together with few words: a slight feeling of grief in the air. Ridiculously, in our first year, it wasn’t an awful lot more than an unmown lawn, the flowers having struggled to get a foot in so far, but still we hated losing it.

The spring barley has also been cut next door this last week. The most enormous harvester went past as I crouched under the small cedar picking out the weeds

For me, I always feel sad to lose plant growth. It’s gone to all that effort and now I’m callously and artificially taking it away. My secateurs must have the cushiest job of any four-acre garden secateurs: I so struggle to bring myself to use them!

The next morning, just a carpet of stubble and a few bales of barley stems are left standing

For Paul, he felt sad for the habitat loss. We were very nervous about nesting animals, but we’d researched how best to minimise this risk and we’re pretty sure any mammals made their escape into the newer, fresher meadow around the pond. All that seemed to be left were a million very energetic (if perhaps somewhat discombobulated) grasshoppers having quite some party on the newly clipped grass. 

A slightly smaller operation of hay making in our meadow, but nineteenth century-style hand-raking didn’t make it feel particularly small!

But as sad (and exhausted) as we felt that afternoon, the following morning there was Harrietta the hare, running about the meadow as if she’d just discovered the most exciting, enormous playground in which to frolic. The tall grass had hidden much of the wildlife from sight and it was extraordinarily wonderful to see Harrietta again. 

Wonderful Magnolia grandiflora in all its glory

I think that’s what being close to nature teaches you. There’s a natural flow to it: after a loss, new joy emerges. When you are feeling sad, a new sign of hope pops up, a silver lining and a reminder that all comes good in the end.

Mum and baby roe in the woodland

Without the trials of life (many of which, admittedly, put losing some grass into perspective), the peaks would not be so marked. However much we struggle with the dips, it is the combination of experiencing the extremes at both ends that makes our lives so rich and meaningful.

We had a gorgeous visit to the stunningly beautiful Cranborne Manor in Dorset this month

August has been a particularly big month for Paul and I, as we’ve both pretty much had the full month off work. Paid work, that is. Garden labouring, not so much. But it’s been such a special time together and we’ve packed so much in.

Late ox-eye daisies, yarrow, knapweed and bulrushes grow in the margins of the pond

Before this year we’d never had more than a few days off at home together and it’s been such fun for the two of us to have that quality time and to be able to explore and discover and work on the house and just catch up with all those little tasks and indeed with life, at a slightly more relaxed pace. Next week, Paul starts a new job and life will change again as we settle into a new routine.

We were extremely lucky to have a visit (and some new plant presents) from Pete the Pond last week; the pond sits so much more comfortably in its spot with its plants now

But sure as sure, there will be ups and downs and excitement and challenges within our new little world, whilst the broader world of Harrietta and the pond and the trees continue along as they have done for centuries, wondering what all the fuss is about.

Our 200-year old cedar of Lebanon absolutely dwarfs the garage

What a wonderful grounding nature provides us with. Living in these continually surprising and extraordinary – yet at the same time unflinchingly resilient and stable – surroundings somehow provides me with all the confidence, energy and inspiration I could possibly need. Certainly plenty to be able to fully enjoy, engage with and take on my own little part of the world each day – however that may change – as we move into September and a new little world.

Thank goodness for the pond: it’s thirsty work for mum and her two babes (both adorable, slightly fluffy, jumpy-in-the-airy creatures with bright, expectant young faces and big brown eyes, who are now daily visitors to the garden at dusk: lucky, lucky us!)

10 thoughts on “August: Dew on rose hips

  1. rusty duck says:

    Best of luck to Paul in his new job!
    The pond and its wildflower edge look as though they have always been there. I grew Lythrum salicaria from my RHS seed allocation this year and I’m really impressed with it. It just needs me to get off down to the river and find a nice moist spot for the many pots I’ve managed to fill. Hopefully deer don’t eat it?!

    • jannaschreier says:

      I’ll pass your message on, Jessica, thank you. Not sure whether to pass on a message to you about Lythrum and deer though. I guess I have good and bad news. The bad is that our deer absolutely LOVE it. The farmers had warned us before we even put it in and sure enough, with every visit you see the pink flower stems shaking around as they go in for a bite. However, there is good news too. The deer are here every day without fail and we still have plenty of flowers. In fact, the plants can get pretty tall, so I’m sticking with the positive attitude (so far) of them saving me having to give them the Chelsea chop myself. Good luck!

  2. Adriana says:

    Everything looks so settled in your garden Janna – the plants, pond and animals, a reflection (I think) of how you feel about this beautiful place. I identify with what you say about seasons, even here in Australia people have a strange perception of when seasons should start compared with when nature dictates they actually start. I noticed many years ago, that even though we live in a cool part of the country (1 degree this morning), there is never really a true winter hibernation period for many plants in Australia; as soon as the leaves drop, you can see new buds appearing on some species. How I envy you your meadow Janna – not something we can do here except on a small irrigated scale and then it loses its impact. I hope your posts on a ‘Year in the Garden’ (which is rapidly passing) extends to 5 years! Good luck with the new job Paul!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Yes, I am definitely, definitely settled for the time! Although I am quite jealous hearing that you have buds on the trees almost as soon as the leaves drop. I remember when we moved back here in March 2016, I was so excited that we were coming back to spring, only to find it was a good two months before any of the trees leafed up. We do have a long winter here. The first full winter was oh so tough, but now I’ve got a warm pair of wellies and a garden to play in, I’m not so worried about them anymore! You’ve got me thinking about Australian meadows though. Our soil is very very very sandy and we get less rainfall than Canberra here (I know also less evaporation). If you seeded in autumn when rain was forecast, surely it would get through to next spring? Might be over a bit sooner, but I’m struggling to see why it wouldn’t work at all when I look at the dusty nature of our soil. What am I missing?

      • Adriana says:

        It’s not that it wouldn’t work at all, it would just be very hard work to maintain a good display in a meadow planting that used mainly annuals. Even Cloudehill, a few kilometres, from us (you have visited it) gave up on their meadow plantings. This was mainly due to immense weed competition in early spring, lack of autumn rains (we can’t rely on them, autumn is almost always the driest time of the year for us here and the soil is at its worst), they were also resowing annuals every year because they couldn’t rely on self-sowing. And most importantly the fire risk of dying plant material. The neighbours and council would soon be on your back! A perennial meadow would work, using tough species – one that remained green through all of summer and autumn. Oh and those buds – they inticingly stay as buds until about mid october – just long enough for the Rosellas to have a great feast.

        • jannaschreier says:

          Yes, I’d never do annuals on scale. We’d have to turn the soil over and/or re-seed each year too. But no, we don’t have the fire (or snake!) risk in the same way. I’m intrigued though – knowing how unbelievably dry and poor that soil is where our April-sown wildflowers are now and how very little rain we’ve had this year… Mind you, would an English-style perennial meadow look right where you are? Happy first day of spring: may your buds be early and Rosella-free this year!

  3. Louise says:

    I do adore taking a “long distance” look at your garden. That pond looks as though it has always been there. I’m sure the animals and insects appreciate it as well. Lovely to have time to spend together, how I envy that! All the best to Paul with the new job. What a lovely place to live amongst nature. I have just spent the morning amongst the new shoots in the garden popping up for spring in Australia. I do have to be careful where I step. I hope you will continue to share your paradise with us for many years to come.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Gosh, there were so many dragonflies out on the pond this morning Louise. Wish you didn’t have to just enjoy it from afar! Thanks for the good wishes for Paul. We have been very spoilt to have the time together this summer. Good to hear that your garden is coming alive again. Spring is definitely my absolute favourite time; you’ll have to send me some photos as it awakens properly!

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