I think if I could sum up August in one word it would be ‘bountiful’. Everything seems to have come to its peak: fruit of every kind dripping off every tree.
Not only are the apples, plums (and admittedly to a slightly lesser extent) pears heavily laden with produce, we also have the fruits of courgettes, beans and (tubers of) potatoes filling our plates each supper time.
The tomatoes still haven’t quite ripened yet, but gosh, I can’t wait, and there are even raspberries from years gone by that have unexpectedly popped up for the first time in the veggie patch.
The squirrels, as always, have beaten us to the walnuts and hazelnuts, and the enormous combine harvester has now stripped the field bare of barley.
But it’s not just edible fruit which is contributing to this feeling of bounty. The cherry laurels are bearing their colourful jewels, alongside increasing numbers of rose hips.
And there is something rather lovely about walking through carpets of perfectly formed acorns. I think it takes me back to primary school, when I had my photo in the local newspaper as we endeavoured to win a trip to Disney World via the ‘Oak Competition’.
Most of the wildflowers in the meadow are now well past their peak, but I look on excitedly at all the promising forms of new life clinging to their stems; hoping the seeds will scatter farther and wider with each year.
The pond looks as though it’s been in for twenty years. It’s astonishing how many forms of life have found a new home and wandered off this way and that, intermingling and staking their ground as if they have grandfather rights going back decades.
Even the compost in its neat confines oozes a sense of bountifulness. The epitome of death and decay and yet with all the warmth and moisture that August has brought, you can almost see the goodness in the compost developing, feel the new life of all it will support.
It’s been a decidedly wet August, after a worryingly dry spring and early summer. We’ve had possibly the harshest storm here yet; certainly the worst storm with trees in leaf, bringing many large branches to the ground. A carpet a foot deep of twisted fallen twigs makes passing the tulip tree a somewhat treacherous journey.
But despite the bountiful slugs that have appeared, we are grateful for rain at long last. My plantings from the autumn have really struggled to get going, not helped by our somewhat weak, sandy soil.
Thankfully, the prairie flowers are revelling in this well-timed rain and the tiny cyclamen are just coming out to say hello from their home of dust skirting the trunk of the cedar of Lebanon.
The rain has also allowed me to do further work on the woodland stream. It’s my favourite place in the garden and my favourite ‘gardening’ task. I’ve put that in inverted commas as I dress it up as vigorous hard graft, but it’s really just splashing around in my wellies under the pretence of desilting and clearing.
I can literally spend hours and hours watching the water flow, this way and that, slowly weaving a new path slightly more to the left or the right, moving the particles held in suspension with the flow and then back in circular motion upstream again. The ultimate act of nature showing us inconsequential humans exactly who’s in charge round here.
And I’ve had an unintended benefit play out in the orchard this month. In autumn, ‘Badgey’ appears and can, overnight, destroy vast areas of lawn digging for grubs. So I set to building somewhat amateur fences across all the little areas where Badgey gets in. So far, so good, but it also meant the deer stopped coming in, too.
I wasn’t sure how much I liked that. It feels more sterile, less dynamic to walk into the orchard knowing it is devoid of life of any scale. But after a couple of weeks, the difference in the plant growth was palpable. Aided by the rain, of course, but in three years I’ve never seen more than a single flower on the Persicaria before, yet here, in deer-free land, was a whole stand of beautiful pink floral candles lighting up the understorey of the cherry tree. The newly planted shrubs also had leaves beyond the height of their short, makeshift guards, at last able to grow up and reach for the sky.
It’s helped me to start to bring the shape of the garden into focus. That perhaps we permanently close off the orchard to our furry friends. We, somewhat cruelly, fill the orchard with all their favourite delights and keep the rest of the garden for less culinarily tempting alternatives.
A division between the enclosed world of forbidden fruits, where soil moisture is fortunately at its best, and the outside world, a more naturalistic land of drought tolerant, herby, scented growth, which can hold its own with all that nature has to throw at it.
It’s an exciting prospect, providing balance in many ways. Self-sustaining for the most part, but with a small area of fun and indulgence. Dynamism in the forbidden city provided by exotic plants; in the wider outside world, provided by the wildlife. Both lands beautiful and exhilarating in their own way. Both lands suited to their individual, inherent conditions.
It seems so obvious now.
But gosh, so much to do, now a plan has formed. No more listening and learning, action is now the watchword for this garden. There won’t be time for splashing in the stream or reminiscing about oak competitions, we have work to do. Plant lists to write, specimens to source and hundreds of pots of new life to get in the ground before the soil cools for the winter.
Off I go now, invigorated and energised; there is much to be done!