A few weeks ago there was a real shift in the seasons as things tipped from late summer into autumn. Since then we’ve had a number of frosts at the allotment and as a result some things suddenly faded and flopped. As well as gathering produce in for eating and preserving I have been gathering materials too and preparing what I can for storage, meaning I have a supply of colour or fibre when I need it. Various flowers have been dried and bottled up. Some are ones I know are worth keeping for future use, others are more of an experiment. I’ve also dried various plant fibres to make into cordage when I have time over the winter.
I set up a series of solar dye jars in the summer and these were eventually emptied out to reveal dyed linen squares to add to my on-going collection of colours from the plot. Sunflowers have been quite a revelation, with interesting colour from leaves and petals. I grew a mix of different coloured ones and they were really happy with the particularly hot summer we had.
Last year I was commissioned to make a special record of a garden. This record was for the occupants of the garden (and its house) for over 20 years to take with them when they move on to pastures new. There is more information about the project here and there are some images of how things developed in an album here. The final set of prints were chosen over Christmas and are now with the framer. I’m looking forward to seeing how they look as a finished series. Meanwhile, I will be bringing the experiments and developments together in a special book to go with the framed prints.
The Gifts from the Pavement book is now available to buy on my online shop.
By the way, this is the last week to see Industrial Abstract at the Beetroot Tree in Derbyshire. Textures of Spurn continues at The Bowery in Leeds and if you’re around that area next Saturday I’ll have a stall at the Leeds Festival Chorus Plant and Produce sale at St Chads Parish Centre, Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds from 11.30 – 2.30. This is a fundraising event for the wonderful choir, which I sing in. There will be lots of plants, food, craft stalls and general loveliness.
A day of respite from the relentlessly wet summer we’re having means I can linger a little longer on my forays into the garden. One of the advantages of working at home is that I can potter a little outside in between other jobs or, at the least, sit outside or on the steps to have my lunch.
I am constantly delighted by my garden. It is a very important part of me. At the beginning of the year there was nothing here: a patch of grass and a tired fence. I’ve changed that and in the space of a few months it is overflowing with greenery of the ornamental and the edible kind.
As I potter it is the detail that draws me in, fascinates me: the tiny holes in leaves (made by who?); the textures of different foliage mixed together; the various insects that are going about their own business; and the mix of colours that can be so stunning.
And then there is the satisfaction of finding something edible forming, and the hope that you will manage to harvest it before the slugs do.
I spent a couple of hours in my garden the other day. It was sunny and mild and the perfect opportunity to clear some of the debris left from Summer’s abundance and to collect some seed before it all falls to the ground, and before British wintertime began with the clocks changing.
I gathered seed and/or seed heads from poppies, fennel, aquilegia, love-in-the-mist, cerinthe and from some runner beans that had been left on the plant far too long to make pleasant eating.
While I sorted them for storage I laid them out, enjoying the different seed heads and forms of the seeds.
Then I put them away into paper bags, ready for a new season and, hopefully, for a new garden.
> I missed my garden while I was away last week. It such a lovely time of year and everything has filled out beautifully with the heat and rain.
The day before I went away the first buds on my sweet peas were tantalisingly showing a little colour, ready to burst open as soon as I closed the front door to go for my train. On my return there were enough flowers for the first posy to go on the dining table.
For me that is the point at which summer has truly arrived. The smell drifting around the house takes me right back to my childhood and picking great bunches of the multi-coloured blooms for the dining room at my grandparents’ house.
I’ve been picking salad leaves for a while but the beans have finally started producing and I picked the fat golden balls off the gooseberry bush yesterday.
The plant itself looks very worse for wear as it has been ravaged by saw fly larvae again. It happens every year: they completely decimate the leaves, but it doesn’t seem to stop it producing the lovely fruit.
Current listening: Michael Nyman, The Piano (dreaming of distant shores)
>It feels distinctly autumnal today, Octoberish in fact. Not good for the middle of the school holidays. Its impossible to think about work with the kids off school so the dissertation is firmly on the back burner and anything practical and creative is on the burner that is even further back!
There are still some lovely things coming from the garden though…
I went to investigate the courgettes just now (amidst firm drizzle) and found this monster hiding at the back of the plant! Stuffed marrow for tea me thinks.
I bottled the morello cherries. Bottling is not something I’ve ever done before. It reminds me of my grandparents who bottled huge numbers of tomatoes and then had them as part of a cooked breakfast every day. The plan with these is to have them with vanilla ice cream.
My runner beans are mixed up with the sweet peas that have been flowering steadily for weeks now and I still can’t get enough of their intoxicating fragrance. This is the first picking of the beans.