Mists and mellow fruitfulness

The abundance of fruit around the garden is always a reminder to take advantage of nature’s bounty by freezing, bottling and preserving in preparation for winter. In much the same way as the squirrel who watches me warily from the branches, we are getting ready to hunker down in our cosy home to see out the colder months of the year. As the seasons change it is also a prompt to take stock of the gardening year – to reflect on the successes and failures and cross our fingers that the weather will be more predictable next year. 

One of my early successes this year was a surprisingly good display of tulips in the pots around the house. For once I had completely nailed the colour combination and flowering times, giving a display that lasted well into lockdown which gave us pleasure, if no one else. It was a gentle combination of white and pale pink, sympathetic to our cottage and with just a hint of apple blossom about it. My favourite Angelique were complemented by some white and green tulips of different shapes and heights, planted lasagne-style as advocated by Monty. Most years, I am at the back of the tulip queue, as I miss the optimum moment for ordering and end up with whatever is left in the stockist’s dwindling supplies, but having abandoned the day job, this year I am organisation personified (nearly). I somehow feel that if I can master a welcoming look in spring then the rest will follow. At a time of year when Mr P is gamely battling horizontal rain to cut back and weed his areas of responsibility in order to get a head start, I am still gazing dreamily out of the window at spring flowers. 

On my mind too are amendments to the vegetable seed order, although I will not place this until it is honed to perfection in my mind. My early thoughts are that edamame beans, like borlotti are a waste of space and effort, because to achieve any sizeable crop, I would need to devote more space to them, than I am prepared to. Having planted tromboncino as a bit of a wild card this year and having failed with it a couple of times before, I have been delighted to find that the Cheshire climate must be getting more like that in parts of rural Italy, as the crop has been acceptable and at their best have been over a foot long. They even nearly succumbed to mildew but gamely fought back with a second crop later in the summer. Kohlrabi has been the stand-out veg of summer, appearing in Thai dishes, a variety of slaws and later on roasted and souped. That’s a definite for next year, as are peas and beetroot. The best tomatoes have been Gardener’s Delight (as always), Sungold (also a regular) and Shimmer which is as pretty as it is reliable. The Marmande have been terrible and are the only ones which have succumbed to blossom end rot, despite my rigorously regular watering. This, then will form the basis of the seed order, along with Telegraph Improved cucumbers (47 and counting!) and Green Windsor broad beans which my grandfather grew and which are still the best. 

I am also making a mental note to collect seed from the various agapanthus’ around the garden, as a lovely gentleman who came to buy some pots from me this summer, assured me that sown in March in a greenhouse, he always enjoys a high germination rate. I have tried them before but put them in a heated propagator which he persuaded me is not necessary. I absolutely must curb my desire to sow a bit of everything because I simply run out of time and space, instead I must be more focused on the really important things.

Meanwhile, the approach of autumn and winter afford me the time to expand my offerings on here, so I look forward to finding some tempting goodies in the shape of Christmas present ideas for green fingered friends and some ideas on festive decorations from the garden. Really winter doesn’t sound too bad after all….