September 2020: In the garden

Where has September gone? 

It occurred to me, a couple of days ago now, that I had yet to venture out with my big camera this month. So out it came, and on a mission I went, to capture September in full.

Only it doesn’t work too well when a month is a long time in the life of a garden. Since the start of the month, the colchicums had bloomed and then been rain-beaten to the ground, the heleniums had peaked and subsequently dropped most of their petals and the twins were all of a sudden almost indistinguishable from Mum.

If ever there was a lesson in slowing down and not letting life pass you by. 

In stark contrast, spring and summer this year seemed to crawl along at a snail’s pace. The frantic human world had stopped and nature’s steady progression came into full focus. Even more apparent for me as nature, in the form of a certain virus, had physically stopped me from operating at my normal full pelt. 

But by September, we were pretty much off again. Paul and I had a lovely break in the Yorkshire Dales and I was distracted by renovations we were carrying out. I forgot to enjoy living in the moment and had fallen back into busy busyness. I’ll be kind to myself this time – I had significant catching up to do – but please give me a firm telling off if you see me doing it once again.

When I eventually got behind the camera, life stopped and I took in all that was around me. I was surprised to find that the first things that jumped out were the smells.

Normally, I’m such a visual person, but the muted, tired tones of September took a back seat and it was the fruity warmth of the ripening quince that became centre stage. 

Once I’d tuned into those, I noticed the fresh scent of dewy grass, then the earthy air rising from last year’s mound of damp leaf litter. As I walked further into the orchard, a vaguely cidery smell hit me – fallen apples were starting to ferment. Curiously, I was reading the garden with my nose for the very first time.

This time of year becomes quite hard graft for us in the garden. It is a succession of picking up fallen walnuts, apples and sweet chestnuts followed by pine needles and fallen twigs before the entire garden turns into a giant soft play area knee-deep in leaves. Leaves which turn the grass yellow and then threadbare if left untouched.

I read a beautiful poem last year written by a fellow gardener, which I’ve sadly not since been able to locate. It spoke of the quietness of winter in the life of this gardener, followed by the intensity of excitement as spring progressed. By summer, the gardener surveyed his riches and felt nothing less than a king looking out over all, but by autumn he was firmly back in his place, calmly and good-naturedly accepting that in fact he was simply a servant to the garden’s needs. If anyone can find these beautiful words, I’d love to read them again!

Whilst I haven’t done very well at stopping and taking things in, I have done my bit of servantship this month. 

You’ll remember my big plan I described in August? Well, I’ve taken some big steps towards this since then. 

The washing line bed has been deepened along its full length: some 25 metres in total. The washing line is no more – it had to be sacrificed in the name of generous planting depths and wide, sweeping curves, but perhaps we’ll find another spot for one elsewhere. 

I’m wondering whether to rename it the rabbit bed, as a brutal reminder when I’m tempted to put culinarily delectable plants there, instead of inside the protected orchard.

But I’m a traditionalist at heart – I don’t like to lose the old and the historic and the stories of the garden’s life. The ‘washing line bed’, with no washing line in sight, seems far more charming and brings back to me Mrs M’s amusing story of the naughty fox who stole her bed linen.

I’ve also put a temporary fence up along (supposedly) the last line of attack into the orchard. Whilst all was quiet during the day, having realised – with the help of our trail camera – quite how many animals were sneaking past the house in the dead of night, a fence by the back door became high up on the to do list. 

Hmmm, that’s not supposed to be there…
…let’s take a closer look…
…perhaps I can get in over this side…
…Mum, we’re having a few problems…
…here, let me have a look. No, not that way tonight.

Rabbits are a whole other story – for now, we’re not going to do too much battle with them but we were a little surprised to see the twinnies smiling up at the camera from decidedly the ‘wrong’ side of the fence one morning. New, taller canes went up at the suspected weak point and the camera is now reset and ready to dish the dirt.

As I type by the fire, we’re definitely entering the period of preparation for winter. We have an enormous pile of kindling ready to go and Paul’s working his way through the larger bits of firewood that need to be chopped.

I’ve ordered nearly 200 plants (don’t tell Paul) that will need to go into the ground in the next fortnight or so and then be mulched with year-old leaf litter, in advance of this year’s avalanche.

Despite the fact that we curse the time we spend dealing with fallen twigs and branches and the enormous task of leaf clearing, we still feel compelled to keep planting more trees each and every year. It feels a responsible part of garden stewardship: to ensure steady regeneration and longevity of the garden beyond our precious shared years.

But despite the somewhat servitude of autumn, we shouldn’t wish it away too soon. It feels wonderful to be out in a coat and wellies – there’s something extremely invigorating about working away in the cooler temperatures we now enjoy. 

And the autumn light is something else. It seems to shimmer through the fading foliage and seed heads, bouncing patterns across every surface it can find.

And the most exciting thing of all this autumn? Our sheepies are finally coming home. Grass seed has been drilled across the field of harvested barley that our garden merges on to and a haze of green is deepening with each day. 

The electric fence will soon be up and I’ll be able to look out from the kitchen, past the blue tits at the window, across the newly planted garden to see our favourite friends at the back, in all their funny sheepie ways.

Please grass, hurry up and grow. Snail’s pace is all very well, but not when it comes to important things, like sheepies moving home!

8 thoughts on “September 2020: In the garden

  1. Adriana says:

    A gardening fable! I don’t think I ever read words, on gardens and gardening, more beautifully composed. I am with you Janna, on the autumn light and cooler days – I do most of my harder work during this time (late autumn to early winter). Good luck with the renovations and I hope you have overcome that nasty virus now.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks Adriana. Oh, and I’ve remembered a bit more of the fable! In spring he felt like the master of the garden. Oh, it was so good, do wish I could find it. Enjoy your spring before it gets too hot again!

  2. Louise says:

    Another beautiful garden blog. Aren’t those creatures amazingly clever! We have had plenty of rain this spring. So green everywhere here! So much so that the fire season has been changed from 1 October to 1 November. My garden is so lush from all the rain. I do wonder what sort of summer we are in for though. Let’s hope nothing like our previous one.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Ah, thank you Louise. We love downloading the photos and seeing what they have all been up to each night! We are so lucky to share our garden with them. Fantastic to hear how everything is very green in Canberra at the moment. You need a summer of low fire risk this time around and it’s always so much more relaxing looking out on a garden that has had a good start to the year. Let’s hope it continues this way.

  3. Suzanne says:

    Hi Janna, many apologies for this VERY late reply but although I have been wanting to respond since the first day that garden to which I am totally addicted keeps demanding priority.

    I enjoyed your smells description of the garden but was surprised that you claimed that this was a novel approach for your enjoyment of the autumnal change. Perhaps it’s your focus on the visual that enables you to take such fantastic photographs! For me, smell, sound (think whisper of the wind in she-oak, popping of Fabaceae fruits, rustling of dry leaves when I startle a lizard; none of which I can see but I know what’s happening) are as dominant as vision with touch not too far behind.

    That’s a sizeable chunk of lawn you have removed and I would imagine by now it is all planted up and looking fabulous. I laughed when you called it your washing line bed as I call mine the same thing but rather than remove the iconic old Hill’s hoist it is now ‘front and centre’ of that area; I’ll show you one day. Actually a great deal has changed since you saw our back garden. Our much-loved mulberry tree is falling over and is now literally propped up with a acrow-prop. Last year I removed all of the lawn underneath it as it became too dangerous to mow. I’ve decided it can have one last summer and have been toying with the idea of having a copse of slim-trunked trees – and then you showed that absolutely beautiful back-lit photo towards the end of you post so thank-you for consolidating my thoughts and I hope you don’t mind.

    Your wild-life is amazing; so varied. Ours is mostly birds and reptiles (although I do have a visiting rabbit from next door!) which delights me (although the odd possum or quandary would be welcome) however I need to get back into the habit of filling the bird baths each day as we are now well on our way to summer.

    Gosh Janna, there is so much more I could comment on; seasonal tasks, your beautiful pond, the orchard and the enjoyment I get when I ‘visit’ your garden each month, but enough said for now. Happy gardening and may the weather be kind to you. X

    • jannaschreier says:

      I can very much relate to the sidetracking ability of gardens! Although apparently much more visually for me than for you. Really interesting that you are so in tune with all your senses – I’m sure it must give five times more pleasure so I really must try harder! I wonder if smell is more of an Australian thing? I think hot, dry climate plants are often more scented. I think sounds I do notice. How I wish I could tell you that I’ve planted up the washing line bed! To be fair, I’ve done a lot. Over a hundred new plants are in. But got a lot of dividing up and moving to do, which isn’t my favourite job. Will all be worth it next year though. I love propped up old trees – hope your mulberry can last a bit longer like that. Although a copse of trees is lovely too. We are spoilt for choice! Too many ideas, not enough time.That’s why it keeps us engaged forever and ever. I love seeing your garden evolve too – keep the photos coming please.

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