August 2020: In the garden

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’.

(Can you spot me?)

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!

The twinnies have become all rather boisterous….
….but seconds later, when Mum looks around, butter wouldn’t melt.

10 thoughts on “August 2020: In the garden

  1. Dorothy Charles says:

    Still enjoying all your posts Janna, including your photos. What amazing progress you have made over the last few years. Do hope you are feeling 100% again after that nasty virus and ready for all that hard work ahead of you. Love D & N xx

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you, Dorothy! Hopefully it is starting to look a little different now. Harder to notice when you see it every day. Hope you are keeping well over there and that Auckland is not too restricted now. Also that your daughter is well – so hard and unexpected to have the freedom of travel taken away. Take care!

  2. Suzanne says:

    Another most enjoyable post Janna, you always put a smile on my face. Did you get to meet David Bellamy? I was a huge fan of his shows, especially some episodes based in Australia; so passionate, enthusiastic and informed about natural environments. Your little face radiates out from the pic Janna.

    I have been wondering how you would manage your abundant wildlife. Your plan sounds like an excellent solution and I’m sure your furry friends will forgive you for excising a ‘wee’ bit of land just for you (or perhaps your four-legged co-owners may levy an excise on your excise!?).

    I do love a garden plan or two but unfortunately I usually overestimate my capabilities to implement and/or complete said plan. I have managed to finished a few since you were here (gosh now 5 years ago). I often think I should send you some photos but my photography is rubbish. You, of course will have no such issues (either with plan implementation or photography).

    Our mutual Sydney friend told me you rang awhile ago. I do hope the effects of the virus are now well behind you. Please give my fond regards to your other lovely friend. It’s almost a year since she was here…tempus fugit! Happy gardening. X

    • jannaschreier says:

      I like the idea of putting a smile on your face, Suzanne (and my little face radiating!). No, I didn’t ever meet David Bellamy. Sadly, at the height of his career I was at an age when I thought he was very ‘uncool’. But I can still hear his incredibly enthusiastic voice today – if only there were more enthusiastic people like him. Gosh, I wonder what currency our co-owners might levy? I fear it might be more plants!! Could be a little self-defeating! Please, please do send some photos, especially as you will be coming into your loveliest time of the year right now. I’d be so excited to see how it’s looking. Just adore your garden, as you know. And yes, I will pass on your regards – can’t believe it was a year ago…although it also feels like a decade ago. Time is strange at the moment.

  3. Adriana says:

    Yes Janna, do create that ‘inner sanctum’. I can almost ‘feel’ your excitement. And relate to it. A new project is always something that will propel us gardeners out of the meandering stream and on to work. It is the silent and contemplative hours though that lead us to new and better ideas. I can’t wait to see the results. And what a bountiful garden you have.

    • jannaschreier says:

      I just wish I had more hours in the day to do it. But once I’ve replied to everything here I’m off out there…got my gardening clothes on ready. It is nice to have a good, solid project to work on. We’ll see where we get to!

  4. Louise says:

    I can feel your excitement and energy renewed in this blog. How exciting planning for what lies ahead! I often reminisce about what it will be like when the day comes and I can venture to your part of the world and experience this most exquisite landscape. I too, believe the stream would be a favourite of mine. Keep writing these blogs with the most beautiful photography, they are little something I look forward to each month xx

    • jannaschreier says:

      You feel a very very long way away at the moment. It is a strange feeling not even being able to contemplate travel right now. But how good it will be when we are able to again. I do hope when you come, you will feel as fond of England as I do of Australia. So very different but both extremely beautiful in their own ways. And thank you, as always, for your kind and encouraging words.

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