The seasons are changing and winter is well on its way. The forecasts speak of snow up north and the temperatures are plummeting. The fiery maple reds have turned to embers. The beech has cast her garments to the four winds. The old oak wears the ochre tweeds of a distinguished country gentleman. Autumn is slowly leaving us.
Grumbling George, the village prophet of doom, passes by on his bicycle. He waves his pipe at the weather and says, ‘I told you so!’ and peddles on.
With the falling of the leaves the impenetrable hedges of the village lanes are now more see-through offering glimpses into new vistas otherwise obscured by summer leaf. One of the more unusual sights revealed in the village is to be found in Bones’ back-garden. He bought the life-size and life-like fibreglass tiger on e-bay and young Thomas loves it. Many a visitor to the village has been alarmed to see, through the beech-hedge slowly shedding its leaves, the sight of a tiger in full-flight with a young boy riding on its back, dressed in a red cape and waving a silver sword madly in the air.
In November the gardens always look untidy. In the old days, when life was simpler, one would cut down the perennials to the ground, fling copious amounts of compost everywhere and spend the rest of the winter painting the main gates. But times have changed.
Some environmentally-conscious gardeners now advocate the road of abandonment. The garden is left as it is and sorted out in the spring. There are good reasons for this: the unruly mass becomes a haven for birds and insects that gorge on the seed-heads during the winter; the dying foliage protects the emerging shoots and buds from frost, and some plants look attractive, especially if graced by hoar-frosts.
I choose the middle path, cutting back judiciously where I can. The beds along the edge of the house are kept immaculate and dressed with the finest leaf-mould. The long borders are allowed a certain element of freedom but still weeded and left looking as if someone cared for them. The dishevelled paeonies are cut to the ground but the phlox left to stand and handsome they look too. Now that the leaves are lifted then barrow-loads of compost will cover up a multitude of sins.
One plant in particular, the sedums, can look so dismal on a rainy day, their deep purple heads a sodden mess. But rather than reach for the secateurs, have faith and leave them to dry out and they will reward you on a sunny winter’s day with the glistening of their velvet wonder.
The orchards and woodland areas are allowed to ramble with patches of stinging nettles and goodness knows what else. Fallen apples are foraged by the fox and the blackbird. The badger passes along his customary path at night and lazily paws the verge for grubs.
Every gardener knows the inevitable changes of the seasons. We may regret the passing of another fine autumn but nothing stands still in the borders, the flowers may fade but already new shoots are pushing through.
As a young lad I would wave goodbye to the passenger train that shunted its way down the track, through the tunnel, round the leg of the armchair and back to the station again. The passengers would ascend and descend, bustling with excitement, the station master would blow his whistle and wave his flag, and with the flick of a switch the toy train would make its way down the track again, with the little boy waving goodbye once more.
Life is an eternal cycle that keeps on churning along. We learn to say goodbye and we learn to say hello….
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