It’s getting quite autumnal now, but I feel ready for it this year. We’ve had so much rain and hence, so much growth, that I’m looking forward to a reprieve and a slowing down.
Not that I want to slow down myself, but I feel winter gives me a chance to get on top again. If that’s ever possible, single-handedly, in a four-acre garden.
August isn’t a good month for English gardens. It feels like the height of summer in many ways: schools are off and it’s often one of the driest, warmest months.
Yet the garden is well past its peak. Much of the flower colour has faded away, even greens are starting to turn more straw-like. And everything is a little bit moth-eaten, a bit saggy; there’s just an overriding feeling of tiredness about it. Which feels somewhat incongruous with a gentle English summer.
Already, berries are filling the trees and whilst the leaves are a way off turning their various shades of ochre, dahlias, heleniums and even the peas in the veggie garden are exuding a dominating palette of deep reds and apricots.
The house is filled with flowers, our tummies with courgettes, new potatoes, plums and raspberries. It still amazes me that groceries can be produced almost from thin air – a self-sown seed, a bit of rain, some decomposed leaves and not a lot else.
Such comfort can be found in sitting down to a home-grown meal.
We had another staycation this month, travelling down to Dartmouth on the south coast and returning back via a few days in Bruton, Somerset, where we visited the Hauser and Wirth garden.
I love the ease of jumping in the car, rather than fighting my way through an airport; I love being able to intersperse the holiday with visiting friends around the country; I love the more relaxed nature of localised travel: feeling I don’t have to try and see everything in one go, in case I never return.
But we also bought a tiny little investment cottage in Australia this month, which has made me feel closer to my second home. Australia had been feeling further and further away, less and less accessible and harder to retain that strong connection to.
I’m really happy to have this tangible link once more, despite me not having been inside the house! We have walked directly past it, we know, on holiday in Tasmania, so we do have a strong sense of the street. We had both said what an idyllic spot it was and that we’d love to live there one day. Perhaps things will turn out that way, who knows? I can’t help but dream about plans for the tiny garden already!
Back home, and Paul has now cut back the wildflower meadow, opening up our view from the house. This morning I watched two (herbivorous) muntjacs in the meadow watch a (carnivorous) fox with some suspicion, before – somewhat surprisingly – chasing the fox out of their space.
The roe deer have all moved out of the garden now. It’s strange not having them around. Things have returned to how they were when we first moved here – the odd muntjac bouncing about the place and lots of our lovely Harrys.
I also came across a beautiful (I think!) grass snake this month. The first one I’ve seen in its full glory. It was baking itself on the top of the stone wall, slithering down into the crevices as it detected my footsteps.
A couple of weeks later I found his discarded skin in the same place. I love the idea of having grass snakes around, but do confess that the weeds in that precise location are getting a little older and taller than anywhere else!
I have started to tackle the woodland edge this month. It’s a really tricky balance, between wanting it to look really natural, and wanting it to look beautiful. There was a particular (non-native) very blobby honeysuckle that really added nothing to proceedings behind the daffodil field, which I decided I needed to do something about.
I’m not sure it has a permanent home here, but I thought I’d try and improve things at least for the next daffodil season. We’ll see if it lasts beyond that!
A large ash tree fell in the woodland this month; I’m hoping not due to ash dieback. Our woodland is predominantly ash, but I’m frantically burying acorns in the hope of providing some succession! It’s nice, however, to look forward to a winter of warmth burning the ash on the fire next year.
Admittedly, one of our oaks is also suffering from oak gall, but when I read up about it and found that ‘suffering’ doesn’t actually do them any harm, I decided it was really quite beautiful!
I think August really is about slowing down, taking some time out, appreciating there is still beauty in age and appreciating the bounty of nature.
I watched a film this month, the first film I’ve seen in years, which Paul decided we’d watch together. This Beautiful Fantastic was about a young woman who, having let her small garden grow quite jungle-like, learnt to love the act of gardening.
You wouldn’t say it was either profound or intellectually stimulating; just a very gentle, easy, pleasant way to spend an evening. It ended with the funeral of the man who had taught her everything in her garden and was quite moving to a well and truly obsessive gardening type.
Just as the credits rolled, our neighbour text to ask if we had seen the fog outside. She has lived here for fifteen years and had never seen anything quite like it. We wandered out into this quite surreal new world; layers of dense white cloud floating in the warm, evening air.
It was just Paul and I outside, still in a slightly removed trance from the film, looking at such a familiar landscape, yet seeing something quite new. It felt almost mystical, other-worldly; almost as if it were the first time we’d seen these fields.
And then, bizarrely, fireworks began. Bright white, burning flames slowly lowering from the sky on small parachutes. Types of fireworks I’d never seen before.
After all the travelling around the world we have done, sometimes the most special and even unfamiliar experiences turn out to be right on your doorstep.
Those twenty minutes or so with Paul in our little Oxfordshire garden, I will never, ever forget.