September is a favourite month;
in fact I’d rank it in my top twelve.
The light is sharp and low and the gardens look pretty good with much still in flower. But there is a chill in the air that promises change.
It will soon be time for regular bonfires and leaf raking; time for the perusal of bulb catalogues while sipping huge mugs of tea; chopping fire-wood; making spring planting plans; the clearing of herbaceous borders and the annual making-of-things (e.g. more nest-boxes and more leaf-mold bins). And, best of all, September heralds tottering piles of buttery crumpets.
It is also a busy month at the Priory. And it is far busier this year than usual. For reasons I won’t bore you with, we’ve only just cut the beech hedge – rather than in early August.
The wet summer meant that it had grown much more than in previous years and so took far longer to do. Boy, did my arms ache.
Nick, Jim and I toiled a whole day; and then Jim and I toiled another. All the trimmings then had to be collected and burnt; wreathing the gardens in constant, medieval wood smoke.
The mixed hedging normally only requires a light trim after its main cut in July – usually a swift job to remove a few arching bramble stems. But not this year. Again the wet summer had allowed it a secondary, unwanted and major growth spurt.
I asked Jim to come in again and help me get it re-cut. It should now look crisp throughout its dormant months.
With the hedges cut, I could turn my attention to strimming. There are large areas of grass that now need clearing. Unmown they have been full of wildflowers but now they must be cut short before they are flattened by heavy rain and frost.
This is such a patch below the greenhouse; packed with Sheep’s Bit Scabious (Jasione montana) it has been spared my strimmer – for now.
About the ponds and ditches, I have reduced to ground level meadowsweet and ugly dock, nettle, perfidious bramble and unwanted, unloved self-sown willow and alder. Whatever I cut, I rake up and barrow out to the bonfire.
The meadow is far too large an area for me to strim. Next week, weather allowing, Sam and his huge, his amazing grass-cutting machine will tackle it. (Heavy rain today forced us to postpone).
As if I haven’t got enough on my plate, rabbits have broken into the gardens once again to wreak havoc; nibbling through the wire netting as if it were cotton. Damn them and their twitchy noses too.
I really ought to be moving tender plants into the warm, safe bosom of the greenhouse now except that it is still full of cucumbers and …
… tomatoes. Weird, strange 2012. And I have had a warning shot across the bows. I really must get a move on and bed the gardens down for winter. You see last Wednesday, on the 19th we had our first frost!
As it does every year, it has caught me by surprise. Suddenly, summer has slipped away. And me with the meadow still uncut, lots of strimming to do, loads of tender plants to move under cover, some of which I was still hoping would flower! But not now. Frost? Already. Cripes. Yes, I really must get cracking.
Best get the crumpets on.