Parthenocissus quinquefolia - autumn leaf

Above: Parthenocissus quinquefolia - autumn leaf

Garden diary: September

31 October 2005

This morning, while I was out in the garden, I saw a goldcrest. A highly unusual, and very small, bird visitor. It flitted across in front of us into some dense foliage (there's a lot of dense foliage in this rather overplanted garden) and then after a short time reappeared, flying to a nearby branch of the rowan tree, where it sat for a moment, helpfully showing me the yellow stripe on its head, as if to say 'Yes, I'm a goldcrest! An unusual sight in these parts!'

Petulant pyracantha - long wait bears fruit

Another exciting first: my sulky pyracantha has berries! It's been a long wait . . . about seven years.

At last, red berries on the pyracanthaI planted this pyracantha so many years ago I've forgotten its name. I think it may be called 'Red Column', though I'm really not sure. It has never before shown any hint of red, remaining resolutely green. Just leaves, year after year, creeping slowly up the wall in the north-east facing corner.

All the books said that pyracantha were suitable for shady corners. I've since realised that many plants suggested as suitable for shady areas will merely tolerate this kind of situation, which is rather different from flourishing.

This year, the unflowering pyracantha reached the top of the outhouse wall it was planted against, and its uppermost branches fanned out above the guttering. Over the outhouse roof comes the sun from the south, and this year, as the plant felt the sun on its branches, it flowered. Only at the very top, but those small insignificant flowers were welcomed with much whooping and cheering. First flowering this summer of course meant that berries followed this autumn. Hurrah!

It's obvious that the non-flowering was all to do with lack of sunlight, rather than other factors, as I'd tried everything. I tried pruning it, not pruning it, feeding it, not feeding it, talking to it, looking at it in a threatening way, looking at it in a disappointed way, and looking at it in an encouraging way. Year after year, no flowers, no berries. I used to hear people on Gardeners' Question Time being laughed at for having plants like this one that they'd kept for years, despite this kind of non-flowering performance.

Anyway, at last there are red berries near the kitchen window. Though there are only a few, at least there are some. Now I'll train it across the outhouse roof, and up the part of the wall around the kitchen window that gets some sunlight.

Other highlights

The garden is slowly subsiding into winter slumber now, though through this month I've been impressed by the way parts of the garden have looked so fresh, though the leaves began to fall.

The Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper) has turned to gold and crimson, and dropped leaves onto the path below, but the Clematis montana remains green, and shrouds the kitchen window with leaves that show no sign of turning. This plant is growing against a north-facing wall, and the lack of sunlight here means a slower seasonal change. At dusk I sometimes catch a glimpse of the birds that head to this area to roost. Presumably a house wall covered in thick foliage is the best place to be when the nights are longer and chillier. If you're a bird, anyway.

It's been a mild autumn, and so the dahlias have carried on flowering through October, and the frogs have been visible in the pond, on sunny days. The sun is lower now, so doesn't actually reach the pond directly, but the frogs seem to sense the milder days and are still active - moving around the garden when my gardening activity disturbs them.

There's not been much gardening of a radical kind, mainly tidying the really messy bits, and planting bulbs. Sometimes at this time of the year I busy myself with leaf collecting and moving plants around, but other years I tend to leave it to do its thing, and let the leaves lie where they've fallen, clearing only the paths and the pond.

The apple tree leaves, golden and brown, always look rather beautiful when freshly fallen, and light up the floor of Woodland Corner, which is otherwise rather dark at this time of year, now the light is so low behind the buildings.

Back to October highlights and diaries


Parthenocissus henryana, autumn 2005

Above: Leaves of Parthenocissus henryana turning colour, autumn 2005.

Garden diary: November