Apples on a leafless apple tree, November 2004

Above: Apples against a blue sky, November 2004

Garden diary: October

25 November 2006 - Leave it . . .

In the last few days I've been out collecting up the blanket of leaves. Autumn leaf fall seemed to come late this year, after the extended summer and early autumn warmth. My attention was distracted for a few days, and then suddenly the leaves were all on the ground, instead of being still attached to the trees in Woodland Corner, where I've been so used to seeing them for the last six months.

It was rather sudden and surprising, as I saw it, and reminded me of those animations showing speeded up seasons, where leaves do drop from the trees all at once, in a second.

So there were lots of golden leaves on the ground, and indeed everywhere, on the mini-lawn, in the pond, in various corners where they'd blown, including Millennium Shed, where great drifts of them had gathered.

It's not a time of year when I feel massively energetic, in fact it's a time of year when I feel inevitably depressed and hopeless, so doing anything at all beyond what's absolutely necessary feels like a major challenge. I did the 'have several strong cups of tea and stand there looking at it all' approach for a while before working out a strategy. Knowing I could just leave them there, but on the paths they rot down and get slippery and messy, they're not good rotting down in the pond, or on the grass, and in the flowerbeds when they're too thickly laid they can smother some smaller plants.

So I decided to tackle these areas and leave the corners with their leaves, which seemed a good balance between wildlife-friendliness and people-friendliness. I don't like slipping on leaves when I go for a wander in the garden, and wouldn't like to slip and fall into the pond - even though, as the pond is so small, this would hardly be a life-threatening event.

It's very boring, collecting up leaves. And yet it kind of ties you in to the season, and the natural rhythms of things, in the way that gardening always does.

I suppose I avoid confronting the tasks at this time of the year because really I'm just thinking about the spring, or New Year at least. But while collecting up the leaves I was composing this Compostings news entry in my mind, and trying to think of a heading. 'I'm all miserable because it's late November' seemed a bit too long. In that rather narrow-focussed November-induced head of mine, all I could think of was leaves. And whether I should give up and leave the leaves where they were.

And then thought of the Mitchell brothers in Eastenders, and the way they'd say 'Leave it!' in a threatening voice, in a cockney accent, when a fight was brewing. This cheered me up sufficiently for leaf-collecting to continue.

The path through Woodland Corner is now visible again, though gold and red leaves are left to fade and break in the corners of the garden, sheltering the smaller creatures.

Elsewhere, a few rather pinched-looking blooms remain on the dahlias. The bulbs are all planted - including the tulips, planted later, just recently.

The birds come in greater numbers now, and have eaten the berries on the pyracantha, and the rowan tree. Some fruit remains - lots of it - the apples on the apple tree, as beautiful as in previous years, the higher ones we couldn't gather, and the red and yellow fruit hangs on the bare branches, like Christmas tree baubles. But natural, and much more handsome. And crucial to the birds that visit, in the bleak midwinter.

Back to November highlights and diaries


Berries - pyracantha and viburnum

Above: Berries of pyracantha and Viburnum tinus 'Gwenllian'.

Garden diary: December