Thursday, 17 October 2013

Two faces of autumn

Yesterday autumn roared in on a thundering wind, blowing over the bay tree, sending the wheelie bin rolling down the grass, filling the air with flying flowerpots.  On the heels of the wind came a downpour which overflowed the gutters, set the land drains spouting, hammered on the slates and turned the paths to water. It was a day for staying in the warm kitchen.

Our bedroom faces east.  When I woke up this morning the sun was pouring in and the sky was a vivid blue behind the ridge on the other side of the valley.  Today has been a gold and blue day, the sun warm, the air still.


The crab apple is loaded down with fruit.  This is malus Red Sentinel, planted to replace a little quince tree which slowly but surely lost the will to live.  I kept trying to persuade myself that the quince would survive, even though it would shed a branch or two every time the wind blew strong.  Eventually it split in two, falling open at its heart.  The crab apple went in last autumn with some daffodils at its feet: Thalia, Jenny and Pheasant's Eye.  I didn't really expect it to do much this year but it was covered in blossom in spring and laden down with fruit now.


I would make crab apple jelly except that I can't bear to pick the fruit.  The sight of the little tree makes me smile every time I cross the grass.


The leaves are only just beginning to turn.  First every year is this little black mulberry.  The apple tree behind it is as dark and glossy leaved as ever but first this mulberry and then its white neighbour turn a buttery yellow.


The apple crop is as huge as ever.  We have had wheelbarrowsfull from the Howgate Wonder, apples big as a baby's head.  They are all hanging in plastic bags from hooks in the workshop roof.  I always had visions of apples wrapped in paper, all lined out in wooden apple trays.  Hanging from a hook in a Tesco bag doesn't have quite the same romantic appeal but that is the best way to keep them here.  Lovingly wrapped they were lovingly eaten by mice.  Hanging up they last for months, right into April.


This summer with its days and weeks of sunshine has been a great year for crops we normally struggle with. The squash have swollen and ripened and we have corn, really succulent, sweet, nutty corn.  We had some tonight with crispy chicken, roast squash and mashed potatoes, everything home grown, and it was totally delicious.  I really don't like tinned or frozen corn, unlike peas corn loses its flavour when it is anything other than fresh and retains only a slightly cloying sweetness, quite unlike the nutty sweetness of the fresh cob, but fresh is it a revelation.


There are fungi all over the place, tiny button ones and great dinner plate sized ones like this.  I have an identification book and I pore over it.  I am sure this one is not edible but even when I do find something which looks as if it is I bottle out when it comes to cooking and eating it.  A doctor friend of our doctor son told us a horror story of a whole family coming into an Accident and Emergency Unit in which he was working having eaten mushrooms following a fungus foray.  Only the father survived unscathed.  His wife and daughters had long term liver damage.  It puts you off, that sort of thing.


The edible hedge has come into its own this year.  It is higher than my head and weighted down with rosehips and haws, although sadly no sloes this autumn.  I think the snowstorms which covered this part of Wales in March did for the blackthorn blossom.  Younger daughter's beautiful young labrador loves the rosehips and grazes happily along the bottom of the hedge.  There are plenty for all of us, even labradors. The hedges are full of birds right now, particularly blackbirds, swooping down to feast on the hips before swinging off again into the boundary hedge.


This stretch of the hedge comes to a full stop with a young rowan tree which will in the fulness of time protect the shepherd's hut from winds and witches.  There is another rowan in the field boundary.  I love everything about them from the flashiness of the berries to the delicacy of the leaves and the sheen of the young bark.


And here is the triumph of the season.  Four years ago I put in some nerine bowdenii bulbs into the sunny bank.  It is a stony, sharp, fast draining place but warm and sunny too.  I visualised a colony, throwing up fireworks in the autumn when the pink salvia and the rich sedums were still going strong.  Nothing happened for a long while.  The bulbs threw out the odd strappy leaf but no flower, and not much leaf either.  And then when I went out the other day to smile at the crab apple and glare at the bindweed growing through the irises, these waved at me frantically from the end of the bank.  They are just glorious.  I am not a pink person  at all, neither in the house nor in the clothes that I wear, but these in the garden are what pink is for.

40 comments:

  1. That looks like Fly Agaric to me Elizabeth so definitely keep it out of the frying pan! Wonderful autumn pictures and I don't blame you with those crab apples, they're so cheery.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes Em, that is what I thought about the fungus. Lots of others around that may be edible though.....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just a few crab apples from the back of the tree so as to not ruin your pretty tree will make some lovely coloured crab apple jelly and every time you spread it on your toast, you'll smile.
    Beautiful photos, glorious blue sky and that large apple made my mouth water. You write a lovely blog so thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Maybe I could spare a few, just a handful!

      Delete
  4. Amanita muscaria was my first thought too - though I hadn't realised they could grew this big. (You aren't going to eat it are you?) Everything looks and sounds wonderful in your garden. Rain and wind and feeling happy are precisely what should happen in autumn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely not going to eat the mushroom! There are all sorts around just now, so tempting!

      Delete
  5. Wow, forget Autumn, your garden looks like it's a beautiful Spring! I never knew the simply joy of gardening until I grew some native plants around my pond - I check on them everyday! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The nerine is interesting because it doesn't really look like an autumn plant does it? I know what you mean about the constant going out to look at things too!

      Delete
  6. The best things are worth waiting for! Isn't that nerine lovely? I was laughing about your lab puppy swiping the rose hips. My bloodhound steals melons - but only when they've reached the perfect ripeness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The labrador, which belongs to younger daughter, is also very keen on raspberries and blackberries!

      Delete
  7. I am amazed yet again at your gardening creativity and prowess I have never had any success at all in storing apples. When we did have lots of apple trees the fruit unfailingly went bad. Or the apples shrivelled. I did try to make cider once when I was about 14 by crushing rotten apples that had gone brown and soft. I think the drink would have gone well with your Fly Agaric.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would love to have a try at cider, preferably not to your recipe, but never seem to get round to it!

      Delete
  8. Lovely photos and descriptions of autumn where you are. Those rosy crab apples do look perfect on that tree and it's great to hear that your edible hedge is bearing plenty of berries. I wasn't sure if we would have sloes here this year after last spring but I've managed to find plenty, fortunately. And I wouldn't be confident enough to pick wild mushrooms either, even with a good ID book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your spring must have been ok for the blackthorn. We had the most amazing snow up here and I think that is what did for the sloes.

      Delete
  9. Charles has made me ill twice with mushrooms..(persistence may yet pay off...)

    It has been a wonderfully fruitful year - we are also banging our heads on bags full of apples in the garage.. Can we please order another summer like that for next year?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Gorgeous shots of your beautiful garden Elizabeth.
    You've given me a great idea with your apple storage. Not for apples, but the last of our potatoes. The mice would have a field day otherwise. They've already nobbled half of them whilst they were still underground.
    I love the nerine and I'm not a pink person either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hanging up high is definitely a good tactic, although it does mean balancing on the step ladder to get anything down!

      Delete
  11. What a lovely piece, homely AND heavenly. Autumn in a Tesco bag.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Pity it is not something other than a tesco bag perhaps!

      Delete
  12. What a delicious autumn scene you've painted, Elizabeth. Your color-chocked garden and the 'gold and blue' day makes me dream!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a classic autumn up here this year. The leaf colour is just fabulous.

      Delete
  13. Lovely shots of your garden as always. It seems that everything that has berries is doing really well this year. According to folk law that means we are going to get a bad winter! Just as well you have bags of apples to keep you going:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really, really don't want a hard winter. I do hope folk are wrong!

      Delete
  14. I love nerines Elizabeth. I struggle to get them to grow here in my garden. But there is an old cottage in a neighbouring village - the roof has fallen in and the garden is overgrown and no=one has lived there for many years. The garden is thick with nerines which burst through the weeds every year. There is no justice.
    Love those crabs - I wouldn't bear to pick them either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that they are slow to establish but, if they do, persist a very long time, as your old cottage seems to prove. I am hoping for more next year!

      Delete
  15. Thank you for sharing these delightful photos of your autumn garden -- I love the rich reds of the fruits and berries -- and, of course, that pink is sheer perfection!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a very special shade of pink, such singing clarity!

      Delete
  16. The crab apple looks wonderful ... as would gleaming jars of jelly . Difficult !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am wondering about having a go with rowan berries for jelly, or the rosehips if Bess has left any!

      Delete
  17. Am filing away the reference to tesco carrier bags, as one of the things puttng me off growing apples is how - and where - to store them. Hanging up carrier bags I could do. There remains the vexed issue of the pruning, however!

    Wonderful photos of autumnal loveliness, perfect antidote to the slate grey day we have here, completed with torrential rain. I think rowans may be my favourite tree, I love everything about them. Hope your Bay tree survived the gale...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had another slate grey day full of rain here yesterday but then today is blue and gold again!

      Delete
  18. Growing up in Somerset, in a house in an orchard, my parents kept carefully wrapped apples on wooden shelves in the apple stote until The Year of the Mice, where after they resorted to hanging them. I think the worst fright I ever got was a couple of years later, putting my hand into a bag for an apple and getting a mouse. Beware mice that climb!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Climbing mice would ruin our system! It would be quite a feat!

      Delete
  19. What a nice surprise to see your comment on my little ol' blog today. And a doubly nice surprise to come on over here and read and see and almost taste those apples hanging in their, what we would call, Superstore bags - no Tesco in Canada. Your rowan is like our Mountain ash, I think. A favourite tree of mine, as well. My niece has been complaining about crabapples lately, and here you are celebrating them. They are beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is there to complain about with crab apples? Would love to know! I suppose you can't eat them from the tree!

      Delete
  20. What a bountiful harvest from your garden! I wish you more blues skies but I suppose your garden needs the rain too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Today we have had so much rain it is hard to recall the sense that rain would be welcome but yes, it is all a balance.

      Delete
  21. Elizabeth, autumn has brought a visual feast to your garden. How sorry I am that I couldn't do enough planning on my recent trip to get nearer to where you live. Even as I try to re-enter my New York life, I am already thinking about more travel, in 2014. Maybe even springtime.

    xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would have loved to see you Frances! Next time!

      Delete

I really love to know what you think and to have the chance to start a conversation. I always try to respond (although sometimes it might take me a day or two to get to you) either here or by visiting you.