Scenes from the garden in September

September is already drawing to a close, and the glory of the summer flowers is fading rapidly, to be replaced by the glory of the autumn colours. Summer has passed by in a blur of work, and, bar the occasional day out (to the Isle of Wight, for example, and the Cotswolds), it has largely been a massive slog. I always look forward to autumn as it is by far my favourite season: I absolutely adore the smell of this beautiful, cosy season, the cold, crisp mornings and evenings, the smell of bonfires, the colour of the leaves. The week containing Halloween and Bonfire Night is my favourite week of the year, as it reminds me of the excitement I used to feel as a child on these occasions. This year autumn is even more welcome than normal, as it brings with it the realisation that a not-very-good year will soon be over, and it also means that we’re soon off on a much-needed holiday. We’re going to America, and I’ve never been in greater need of a complete break from normal life. I’ve only had one day off in the last five weeks!

I start not with a photograph of our garden, but of the moment I first realised that autumn had arrived. I was out walking one of the guide dogs and snapped this autumnal scene in Leamington Spa.

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Back at home, my tomato plant was a reasonable success. I was able to harvest quite a few good-sized tomatoes, as you can see here. The skins were a little tough, but I think that’s to be expected in an English climate, particularly after a cold and miserable August. Some weren’t going red, but I discovered a great trick: I popped them in a brown paper bag in the cupboard and a few weeks later they were red.

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The courgettes, sadly, were an absolute disaster because they were ravaged by what I assume to be slugs or snails (I never saw any – only the devastation they left in their wake!). Even now the poor plant is still valiantly trying to grow new flowers, but they never get the chance to develop into anything.

As autumn draws in, the focus of the garden has turned from its bounty of fruit, vegetables and flowers to its wildlife, and I’m pleased that more little creatures are using it as a place of refuge, where they know we will provide them with food over the harsh winter months.

At least one adorable little mouse is now a regular visitor. We saw him quite a bit last winter, but he hasn’t been seen at all over the summer. Suddenly one day I noticed a rapid movement down by the pond and I knew he was back. He has his nest behind the pond. One morning earlier in the month, we watched him darting around the patio collecting berries, as the final blackberries fell from the bramble bush.

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I’ve also discovered that he’s been eating the fat from the bird feeder. He’s remarkably nimble, running up through the rose bush and down the string to perch himself on the coconut thus:

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He’s quite easily scared, but by approaching him very slowly, I managed to get a photo of him sitting in the rose bush, eyeing up the coconut with those beady little eyes!

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He’s also been gathering bird seed we put down for him on the edge of the pond, which he fetches by scampering across the lily pads over to his nest behind the pond.

Robins and blue tits have started coming to the garden, which is delightful. I have positioned a bird feeder nearer to the house so that we get a better view of them, though it’s used mostly by sparrows at the moment. I mentioned in my last garden post that we have a woodpigeon who visits us several times a day. Lee got this great photograph of him, which shows that the top half of his beak is missing, poor thing.

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Weirdly, he looks increasingly battered each time he comes in. We don’t know what happened to him, but he’s lost some feathers since this photo was taken, including some tail feathers. I was horror-struck when I saw next door’s garden full of woodpigeon feathers, and thought he was a goner, but he came flying in later that day as normal and continues to do so. You would hardly know that the bird below is the same one: you can see how his feathers have been sort of shaved off. Perhaps the poor thing got into a fight with a cat or something.

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Finally, a photograph (overexposed) of the garden taken this morning, just for the record.

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I’ll hopefully manage another post before I go away, but if not, I’ll be back before too long with tales of my travels in America.

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