I love this time of year. Spring and Autumn are – and always have been – my favourite seasons. Long before I discovered gardening I found the sense of change exciting. For so many years September was always the start of something new – moving up a year at school, new courses at University – it was odd, starting my first job, and realising that it didn’t have the same milestone status as a month any longer.
Discovering gardening solidified the preference, both seasons are so “busy” with change, littered with milestones. I get a surge of excitement at the sight of leaves unfurling, blossom breaking out, the yellow catkins smothering the branches of the silver birches.
Starting to blog has caused me to see things differently too, I take far more photographs than I ever used to, and slowly I am beginning to learn how to take better photographs, and to take them not just of moments of beauty, but to help me plan and improve my garden.
Though until I read Laura’s recent post I had never noticed the strange, small flowers borne by my Aucuba japonica crassifloia.
I still scribble copious notes – about plant combinations I like, techniques I want to try, things I want to move – but increasingly I also rely on my camera. I find I am trying to take “plant portraits”, showing leaves as well as flowers, pictures taken not so much in an attempt to capture beauty, but to act as a record and reminder about how a plant behaves and how to use it. My plants page is supposed to become a sort of online notebook, recording the plants I grow and where I grow them, although until I am reasonably sure I have cracked preventing them from turning up on my feed I am holding off, no one wants a sudden influx of tens of posts on plants from me!
Recently, though, both the photographs I am taking and the notes I am making are taking on a rather unsettling new form. FIL is now actively working on a retirement plan. Once he has freed himself from his business and no longer has to work full time we will be moving. We’re not sure where yet, but we know we want as much outside space as we can afford, and that gardening will form a large part of our new lives.
So we’ve started talking about the plants we like. The orange tulips (‘Ballerina’) and the purple hazel are “keepers” – in fact the hazel is already in a very large pot so that we can take it with us. I was delighted to hear FIL say how much he likes the Euphorbia robbiae that brightens up the back border, and that he has fallen in love with hellebores since moving here. Extra incentive to pot up lots of the hellebore seedlings.
I was slightly more disconcerted to hear that MIL doesn’t like Narcissus ‘Tète-á-Tète’. They are my favourite daffs, but for MIL daffs are big and yellow. Fortunately for me she is too generous to ask me not to have any in our next garden, though I think wallflowers are out (bad associations with her mother-in-law and the loss of a wedding ring…). In return I have promised to plant her drifts of her favourites. Somewhere. Happily we are all united on having fallen in love with Narcissus ‘Segovia’ (below), so that has been scribbled in the notebook as a must-have, along with lots of Anenome blanda and Erythronium ‘Pagoda’.
So I am wandering around the garden photographing unfurling fern leaves and the seedheads forming on the hellebores, so that I can compare flowering times etc. with previous years and so that I will know for next year what to expect when…
…but part of me is wondering if I will even be here to see these transitions next year. And even if I am, will I be so distracted by trying to pack up as much of this garden I have been buidling for over a decade now to notice that the Magnolia has almost finished flowering?
All this is, mostly, exciting. But the thing is, since starting to blog regularly, and to engage with other garden bloggers, getting ideas for plant combinations, new plants, I have engaged with my garden more strongly than ever. When TNG and I first moved back here, over two and a half years ago now, it was on the assumption that it would be strictly temporary, just for a few months. Then illness, and the discovery that the four of us actually really enjoy living together, meant we started talking about moving.
We thought we would be gone by now, even if only in to rented accommodation while we sorted out the longer term future. So I did the bare minimum on the garden front, until ageing shrubs started dying and I realised that it was going to take FIL a lot longer to disentangle himself. The uncertainty of it all, and the fact that the timing of the move wasn’t – isn’t – in my control, began to drive me nuts and my garden became my saviour. By re-engaging with it I became calmer, more rooted, almost patient about it all. And of course I started to plan and dream about how to make it an even better garden. More colour, more transitions, more contrasting textures. But on a very tight budget – after all, why spend money on plants when you are moving soon?
So I am noting that I really like tulip ‘Havran’ with the acid green of euphorbias, and thinking that might work in the future somewhere.
I’m noting that I love the orange of ‘Ballerina’ against the young leaves of the acer (my favourite tulip, such a great colour, so graceful with those pointed petals, and fragrant too), and that I also rather like astrantia leaves against the tulip foliage. And I am itching to buy more ‘Ballerina’ in the Autumn to create a ribbon of orange connecting back through to the purple tulips and the euphorbia, so that they are no longer isolated in ridiculous splendour. And all the time I am wondering whether there is any point to this. If I don’t plant more tulips this Autumn and we are still here in a year or even two year’s time, I will be really irritated. And I want to plant Aster divericatus in the Magnolia bed because I know it will look wonderful and hey, I can always dig it up again. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I managed to do my back in rather badly on Saturday in a mammoth sowing session, I would be planting this lot up:
(The empty pots are placeholders for seedlings still too small to plant out)
So here I am, with a sore back, feeling unsettled and a little narky, “betwixt and between”, making lists and notes for a garden that I don’t yet have at the same time as making notes for what I want to move and plant this Autumn.
Oh, and I have run out of pots just as my tomatoes need potting on…