It happens every year, without fail, I should be used to it after all these years, but I still get a shock at how quickly the nights lengthen after autumn dances in — the effect being greatly exacerbated by the return to Eastern Standard Time. At least it means that I eat at a reasonable hour, instead of peering hopefully into the fridge at 8.30 when I finally come in from the garden during summer.
There is a small-ish apple tree, a Fuji, growing at the bottom of my garden in the Arctic zone. It’s struggled a bit over the years, producing rather pathetic crops that failed to develop past the golf ball stage. However this year it produced a bountiful crop about half of which have reached persimmon size, still small despite assiduous thinning on my part The apples ripen very late here so they provide the bird population with a feast when most other sources of foods are drying up. In order to allow some fruit to ripen on the tree I spent a morning struggling with the difficult task of festooning the tree with two large pieces of bird netting. The aim was to exclude the charming little silver eye population who choose to over-winter here rather than migrate to the mainland. The next morning most of the silver eye population were happily enjoying breakfast inside the net. Shooing them out presented some difficulty as they never remember where they get in, followed by another hour of tracking down gaps and either tying or clothes pegging them together. This worked well for a couple of weeks except for the big wattle birds who pecked the apples through the net, ripping holes in the process.
Finally I gave up after discovering a lone silver eye inside again and another frustrating hour ensued while I removed the net, unhooking it from endless fruit spurs while struggling on tippy toes. A large basket of apples was gathered as darkness fell, the pecked ones for cooking, the golf balls for the horse and the decent sized clean ones hopefully for storage. At least my endeavours gave the apples another couple of weeks of ripening on the tree but next year I’ve resolved there will be a netting tent supported by pipe arches, the proper sort I see in other people’s gardens. Of course it may be eight years before I get a decent crop again.
In the mean time the big wattlebirds are also enjoying nectar from the beautiful dangling flowers of Canna x Ehemanii
Another crop did unusually well this year, the old chestnut trees at the brewery always produce a ton of chestnuts but generally they are slim specimens not worth the inordinate amount of trouble takes to glean something edible from those spiny casings. The Plantsman and I collected a few a couple of times but the resulting spine infested fingers were just too high a price. This year while on our morning walk Spotted dog and I noticed that an amazing crop of close to full size nuts had appeared scattered under the trees and across the car park, where they had been knocked down by the possums. I filled my pockets till they bulged like chipmunk cheeks and returned the next morning with big bags to collect the overnight fall. It was a brief window of opportunity, two days later the early morning harvest was nothing but empty husks, every possum in a ten mile radius had joined in the feast.
Malus ionensis flaunted its brilliant pink and orange leaves briefly before releasing them to carpet the ground. Sharp mornings are causing the butter yellow leaves of the ash and the birches to follow suit. The ginko turned soft yellow overnight but holds its display for much longer. The huge backdrop of willows are slowly blanketing the ground by the creek with their leaves but unfortunately they’re also covering the plants below with sooty mould.
I had noticed a welcome dearth of wasps over summer and put it down to the few extremely cold nights we had last winter. However when I was down by the creek an intense humming overhead finally alerted me to the fact that they hadn’t all died, instead they were all busy supping honey dew produced by a plague of black aphids layered along the branches of the willows. The resulting sooty mould is coating the plants below so I’m praying for an early frost to wipe them out. Its not happened before so I’m curious as to what has triggered such a horrid aphid explosion.
Another gorgeous autumn colourer, Cornus Eddies White wonder becomes Eddie’s Red Wonder. It’s the time of the year for peering into miniature narcissus pots to check for those delightful little spikes of green coming through, soon some of the little hoop petticoats will follow. The autumn flowering crocus have been successively producing their guileless flowers for the last couple of months, Creamy Crocus vallicola first, followed by banaticus, nudiflorus, longiflorus, oreocreticus, goulimyi, tournefortii, and all the others that I can’t remember. The location labels transport me back to places like Kosmas, Gythio, Chios, Samos, Vikas Gorge, Kajmakcalan, where we had collected the seed.
Every so often, presumably depending on prevailing air currents, air temperatures, and other meteorological divinations, a brilliantly multi-coloured sail swoops down from the mountain, sashays around above the house, swings across the road and disappears momentarily through a gap between tree and hillside, reappearing nicely placed to touch down on the Cascade paddocks. I was interested to read that one of the perils of hang gliding off the Organ pipes was the danger of the sail being shredded by wedge tail eagles determined to drive out the interloper — as if hang gliding isn’t enough danger by itself.
And Charlie came for another sleepover 🙂