It’s autumn already

Cyclamen hederifolium
The first Cyclamen hederifolium of the 2014 autumn season

The first tentative Cyclamen hederifolium flowers are showing with many more gawky necked beaked buds starting to unravel from the corm.

And its hot, like you know real summer – what’s that all about?

Light and shade play across the drowsing afternoon garden, sharpening the curves and focusing individual trees in the woodland along the edges of nearby Salisbury Plain. High white clouds glide across a blue sky, it’s only raining on Ireland today according to the rain radar.

We were on the edges of thunderstorms on Saturday, the rain hammered down briefly, but now some parts of the garden are dry again,  plants in the wrong place such as the Primula florindae look woebegone every few days. And when I water after the damn mole has been lifting plants with its back,  it comes back again, and again – bye, bye Eschscholzias it was nice seeing you in full glorious flower briefly, and the diascia, and oenothera, and… Much easier for moldewarp to shift aside nice moist soil not hard baked clay, elsewhere its surface runs in the clay are cracking and collapsing making the lawn a little treacherous.

It’s a period of downtime for me,  it feels like dim and distant school summer holidays, hot brightly lit days drifting one into another, the torpor of the dog days takes hold, my birthday comes and goes, and then the coolness of September, freshly sharpened pencils carefully inscribe new exercise books with name and form, and so autumn term begins.

There are heavy guns going off intermittently on the plain and I think of all those people around the world for whom today that rumble and thump will have meaning, bringing hope or dread. Here at least this hot summer afternoon the booms of the ordnance being fired up on that great chalk downland aren’t in anger or an immediate threat, except perhaps to a few Great Bustards and local villages with the occasional wayward shell.

Crossing paths with wildlife part 102: The toad in the watering can. The empty cans had been lazily thrown onto the lawn the evening before. I filled one can from the outside tap. I thought I heard a plop as I was watering, didn’t think any more of it, just water sloshing a bit. Then I filled the can again, and just as I picked it up, up came a toad, it looked at me and dived,  and came up and dived again – needless to say it was released from the maelstrom back onto terra firma.

The fat milky green hazelnuts are being raided by squirrels earlier than last year. Day on day the endless nittering of shells being opened can be heard and the evidence is strewn across the lawn. All the Early Rivers Plums just at the point of ripeness went within a day, I presume squirrels, and apples are also being broached.

For two days in a row a skinny but lithe young fox has been in the field across the stream, so very close to the chickens. Unconcerned about me watching it, it padded around the field every so often doing the 4 feet off the  ground at once pounce onto too nifty voles (I guess). Only a very rumbly farm tractor making its way along the bordering road had it running pell mell for cover.

And I’ve just had a young bullfinch sporting a bright pink breast but rather scruffily as if its stuffing was falling out, and with a rather full beak, stare at me through the window, shrug and disappear again.

The not quite right white/blue/yellow border
The not quite right white/blue/yellow border

And finally I apologise to any readers of my articles in LandScape magazine for the seeming obsession with the not right white/yellow/blue border! I’m working on it!! And today I’m liking the Helianthus debilis Vanilla Ice, a pale lemon/cream. Campanula Lactiflora Pritchard’s Variety, a little mauvey blue but he’s staying. Then the drift of Nicotiana alata by the bench kicks in as evening falls, the large white flowers open fully again and release intense scent, mmmm.

It’s the Big Butterfly Count for the next few weeks – I’ve done the first of a couple of counts. In the last few days I’ve seen Red Admirals, Peacocks, Small Whites, Green Veined Whites, Large Skippers, Commas, Speckled Woods, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Tortoiseshells, plus a few Marbled Whites drifting by. The Grasshoppers are also busy zizzing away, it almost feels like the Mediterranean!