of caterpillars and comedians

My allotment is pretty well sorted out for its winter rest after I planted some garlic today. There are winter brassicas, leeks, spinach and Japanese salads still to come and the  top dressing of the empty beds is progressing well. As I am feeling virtuous about the state of cultivations, I have been catching up with friends and garden visiting since last week-in the real world. I am still waaaaaay behind  thanking the generous kindness of the blog world-please accept this as a thank you for your continuing visits and comments-all of which are enjoyed as much as a lovely slice of chocolate cake.

I spent Monday morning at The Courts,  admiring the still bountiful perennial borders, and especially noticing the contrast in leaf texture, shape and colour and  the incredible burnt toffee scent of a  Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). The air was motionless  after a cold night and the perfume was hanging heavily in the air. Delicious.The lawn border  looks good, with the topiary newly clipped.

The cooler nights are beginning to lead to leaf colour changes , and we were disappointed to find the dahlia beds at Avebury Manor on Sunday had been blackened by frost. My garden has escaped so far, but it felt cold earlier this evening and I cut a last bunch of dahlias for the house, complete with attendant insect friends; the ubiquitous earwigs-why do they love dahlias so?-a couple of ladybirds and this fellow..

…it is a caterpillar of a tiger moth of some sort, pound coin for scale. The caterpillar is conveniently placed on the programme for Bath University Gardening Club, venue for an excellent talk last night by James Alexander Sinclair about planting English country gardens that has had me thinking about focal points all day. It was the funniest talk I have heard for ages. (Ever  since I was privileged to hear Hugh Dennis at a Data Centre awards dinner….I just wish I could repeat some of the jokes-but I expect they are copyright and anyway, far too rude for this genteel (ahem) blog.) It was a joyous evening, complete with the excellent company of fellow bloggers. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing?

a feelgood post

At last, it is raining. I may regret saying that if there is no more good weather this summer, but today, I am glad it is finally wet. I have been lugging-and have you noticed, water is always lugged-cans of water to keep potted plants and allotment produce alive if not thriving. I have watched the potato foliage wither and die and thought the crop would be a failure.

Yesterday, with rain forecast but not yet here, I dug the Pentland Javelin early potatoes and was pleased with the yield and relative lack of scab and slug damage. The latter is not unexpected in this dry season, but the tubers had made a good size. In the picture there is one of 3 bags-2 for keeping and the less good ones for immediate usage. I had the brainwave of saving the 10 and 15kg paper flour sacks we buy direct  from the miller for this years potato crop . You can see one in the background of the picture.

I also collected the Japanese Autumn seed sown onions that have been ripening and the shallots. The onions are a lovely big crop but the shallots are much smaller-the ones in the picture I  cheated with and these are some of the largest. I didn’t water them at all and they show it. The garlic is disappointing-same reason as the shallots I guess, but I did look up how to make a garlic plait this morning and once the cloves were cleaned up a bit and plaited, leaf rust and all, they looked quite good.

The fruit has been fabulous-several other blogs I read have commented on the bumper crops this year and I have made a dozen jars of strawberry jam, 3 of blackcurrant and the red currant will be completed tomorrow. I need to finish labelling them and then they will go into storage in the cool dark of the garage. I am always reminded of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five when I stack the jam. There is a description of a larder stacked with jam and butter and biscuits and I could clearly imagine it when I was a child.

The other bit of good news is that finally, on their 4th attempt, Mr and Mrs Blackbird have reared at least one youngster, seen here through the patio window this morning, waiting for dad to arrive with food. It still has the little “ear” tufts and no tail feathers.