Sunday, 18 October 2009

Autumn assaulting the senses

Tall lemon-yellow sunflowers reach for the sun

My self-indulgent morning routine is to check the email, catch up on the blogs I follow, spend a little time in quiet reflection, and take a leisurely stroll in the garden in my dressingown. Only then is it time for the business of the day. A couple of times a week this is punctuated by a breakfast shared with Suzanna - this morning it was apple pancakes with butter and gooseberry jam: no wonder I am overweight!
Out in the garden, Autumn assaults the senses in these golden October days, brought by a stationary anticyclone centred over Ireland. The Autumn colours startle the eyes: wine-red Cornus sibirica, Euonymus and Prunus 'Kojo-no-mai', the orange berries of Cotoneaster, and the yellows and russets of the hedgerow ash and the trees of Kilteelagh.

Wine-red Cornus sibirica

Spindle (Euonymus sp.) in the Drive Border

Kilteelagh trees from the front gate

We have had no significant frosts yet, and the tender autumn flowers sparkle in the sunshine: bright hoors of Dahlias, pink and white Nicotiana, and sky blue Salvia uliginosa - the latter reputed to be tender, but it has survived the last two winters outdoors here.

Bright hoors of Dahlias

Salvia uliginosa

Scuffing fallen leaves in the Lime Alley reminds me of childhood. A leaf falls vertically in the still air and I catch it for luck. From the corner of my eye I catch a flicker of white as a Cole Tit races to the sunflowers. The first heads have ripened - I do not cut them down until all have been stripped, and I hope to get some volunteers next year, as I did this.

As I pass the soft-fruit bed I spot a few late Autumn raspberries. Too few for a dish for two with cream, I say guiltily to myself, so I might as well eat them! They are very ripe, almost black in colour, but oh, the flavour! Sweet and acid at the same time, delicious. But the pips stick in the gaps of my teeth and red juice stains my fingers.

A strange rhythmic noise claims my attention. I look up to see a skein of geese, two dozen or so, flying in a classic 'V' south east, honking as they go. Where have they come from, and where are they going to? Perhaps they are Greenland White-fronted geese (Anser albifrons flavirostris), an exciting thought. Ten thousand of them, one third of the world's total, fly each autumn from far-away Greenland to spend the winter on the Wexford Slobs. But I'm not up to identifying them in flight.

From my study window, I see two Magpies chasing each other, one with something red in its beak. I go out to investigate and find a dead rat, half eaten, in the Labyrinth bed. Magpies are scavengers, doing the job of cleaning up which Nature has designed them for. But I can't imagine that they killed the rat, but perhaps a visiting cat did. Should I put out bait for the rats and risk poisoning the Magpies?

I've been trimming the hedge of Eleageanus ebbingeii at the back of the drive border, a big job. I want to keep it at about 7 foot, and like it to have a flat top to show off the shrubs and trees behind It is now in full bloom with rather insignificant white flowers, but their scent is magnificent. Close up it is almost overpowering and has been making me sneeze. It is a good hedging plant with grey-green laurel-like leaves, but can make several feet in a season. I had thought it thornless, but discovered to my cost that some plants have a few sharp little prickles, which drew blood painfully.

So I have been assaulted in my garden by all five senses!

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