Tuesday 27 September 2022

Autumn Equinox

Roses blooming in Boskoop
- planted by our friend Jan

With better planning I could, perhaps, have got this belated edition out on Friday and thus would have marked, to the very day, the autumn equinox - the point at which day and night are of equal length - we have left summer behind and the days gradually shorten

One of the good things about being a gardener - however unskilled - is a deeper appreciation of the change in the seasons and the passing of time. This has been all the more poignant for me in recent weeks and explains why I failed to write a episode, as I had planned, exactly one month ago

If you look back to the previous blog (26 July 2002) you will find a video about the Rosarium in Boskoop, in the Netherlands. Its restoration owes much to our good friend, Jan den Haan. Little did I realise as I wrote those few words that within weeks cancer would claim his life

This is the Dorpskerk - literally, village church - in Boskoop
(However, Boskoop is more than village these days)
A very kind friend offered to stay with Mrs Codger so I could attend the funeral. I'm so very glad that I did. There were 250 mourners present at the Dorpskerk (photo right) and a large proportion also attended the graveside - quietly filing past and placing roses (always roses!) on the coffin. Jan was nurseryman at heart and so obviously respected. We always thought of him as a gentle giant - it was a privilege for me to share with the family at such a special time

No sooner had we returned home - I was away for just three days - and we seemed to immediately enter into mourning for Queen Elizabeth. The two experiences merged into one - possibly because both Her Majesty and a humble Dutchman shared the same Christian hope. I'll try to say more about that before we finish

Sometimes a single picture seems to say it all
A lady in Bakhmut , Ukraine - see report below
Charity fundraising
You might think that our next topic should pick up on a gardening theme. But first, however, I'd like to say a little about the charity side of things. On my return from Holland I felt that the time had come to aggregate the donations that had come in over the summer and to get the money off to our friends in Poland for use in Ukraine - the need remains urgent. I doubt that it is necessary for me to tell you that this remains to be the case -see the photo left, courtesy of BBC (also, read the item below on news sources)

Taking advice from a friend I transferred the money using Wise.com (formerly Transfer Wise). I mention this both in terms of transparency and recommendation. The transaction cost only a few pounds and was seamless - thus £1400 went to Poland (1600 euros at the time, it would be less now!) - and is already being used. [On an earlier occasion it cost me £25 to transfer £1000, using the standard inter-bank system - so I'm impressed with Wise, they seem to be doing a good job. Get in touch if you wish to know more - there could be a further saving]

We are still in business, supplying plants and giving advice.
We have even branched out a bit - here are grasses provided for a
recent project. Watch out for news on a makeover next month
... a little more on the same ...
Hardly had the dust settled on the transfer when I heard from the giving charity that I normally use, Stewardship, that due diligence was complete and that I could open up the giving channel planned back in March. I will certainly do this so please look out next month (October) for details

However, it does raise an issue that I'd like to be open about. As many readers are aware, Garden Codger cares for Mrs Codger. The word 'care' here has both the personal and technical connotation so I have to think about the year ahead and how much time and effort I am able devote to my Codgerly efforts. I'm working on that balance right now and hope to say more in the next episode. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has continued to support this year

Now for a bit of gardening!
Last time I explained how easy it is to produce strawberry plants for nothing. Simply give the runners chance to root. Here is a better shot of a runner with its roots. At the time of writing I was establishing a new strawberrry patch. I was not expecting fruit just yet but I've already had some. The hot summer helped - but remember, strawberries like to be watered

Whilst setting up the bed I sorted my old compost, sieving as I went. The rough stuff I used as a mulch for the strawberries. I could not resist popping in the odd lettuce here and there. I don't have much space so this was a double gain

And a bit of wildlife
Whenever I work around the compost heap a friendly visitor appears. You can see him on the left. This young robin and quite persistent in his attentions. I reward him by disturbing the soil - he immediately checks it over for a snack. I also deliberately spill a bit of fish food by the lond when feeding the fish

The surplus always disappears. I suspect that some of this is consumed by our other friend, Horatio. I almost trod on him the other evening. And I've noticed in the cardboard box I left for him there are some dry leaves - more evidence that he is still around

Our garden is also visited by cats. I think two of them had a dispute a couple of nights ago both leaving their collars and quite a bit of fur. Or, was that an encounter with a fox?
This specimen is about a foot across

More interesting was the insect activity on this sunflower. You may remember my saying that I never sow sunflowers but always end up rearing a small tribe. Rather inconveniently they chose the raspberry bed this year - crowding out newly planted raspberries. But Codger has softened in his old age and tends to let live

This tolerance even extends to turning a blind eye to a few pests. The sunflower head in the photo (dinner-plate size!) is obviously past its best. The bedraggled appearance due, in part, to a thorough infestation of blackfly

Ladybird larvae about their business
The back of the 'plate' was black with aphids. You may know that they are farmed by ants - who seemed to have set up a thriving enterprise. I left them to it (noting, however, that the ants had a long commute to work!). Taking another look at the weekend, I made an interesting discovery

One reason for not agressively attacking pests is frequently their predators get killed, too. A principle of organic gradening is to achieve a balance - this is easier said than done and requires patience (I understate the case). So, imagine my delight when I discovered that a gang of ladybird larvae was munching its way through the herd of blackfly. I immediately gained photographic evidence (see photo left) - their distinctive livery is a matt black set off with vivid orange braid

Incidentally, when checking my identification of the larvae later I was to discover that we have 26 species of ladybirds in the British Isles

These plants are still providing a steady supply of fruit. They only
get the morning sun so I pick them nearly ripe - this encourages
the remaining fruit to ripen. They will go on into October
Some other successes
My main memory of gardening in 2022 will be the amount of watering I've had to do. Most of that was in the nursery area where I have hundreds of pots - the Codger enterprise area, you might say. This is my stock of plants - mainly consisting border perennials. I've just been through them - roughly noting what needs potting-on ahead of winter

I've had many good reports of readers still harvesting tomatoes from plants that we supplied. Once again, I found the the yellow varieties have done well - both in the greenhouse and outside

I've still got a really sturdy vine of Italian plum tomatoes in the greenhouse - showing off a bit in yesterday's sunshine in this photo (left). Although not immediately obvious, I followed the common practice of removing a lot of leaf - this allows more sunlight to fall directly on the fruit and hastens ripening

This was partly inspired to a visit to RHS Bridgewater in August where their vines were made to look positively skinny byzealous leaf removal

Tigella did well - note the stripes
I also got good results from Mamande (a beefsteak type) and from Tigrella. This latter variety was new on me and is shown in the photo (right) - I like to experiment with different varieties (there are hundreds, of course)

You can see the reason for the name - a slightly stripey skin. I shall certainly grow this one again - good flavour and trouble-free. Perhaps the moment to say that I've experienced very little blight this year

I have been somewhat overrun with tiddlers. Several readers have found the same - and used them as the tomato ingredient in spaghetti bolognese - sensible use as size does not matter when making a sauce

Tomatoes apart, the copious sunshine suited many squashes. My little collection has just been shipped off for the harvest display at church

Overall, it was a year when it was hard to fail - provided you kept up with the watering. We come under South Staffs so did not experience a hosepipe ban - even so, I used the watering cans whenever I could

Although our garden is not particularly designed for dry weather, I was surprised how well the main flower border survived the dought

As I say, close planting
A heavy mulch in the Spring played a part in this - and, I suspect, the close planting whereby very little soil is exposed to the sun. I'll put a few flower photos in the gallery section at the end. The dahlias have done well - and, hopefully, will continue to do so until the frosts come. I plan to store the dahlia tubers out of the soil over the winter. Some other plants such as salvias will get protection in the greenhouse

Well, I think we must begin to draw to a close for this month. Just a couple of things - I said that I would include something about information sources on Ukraine - let's deal with that first ...

News sources on Ukraine
There is the constant danger of news fatigue when a situation seems so intractable and threatening. There are so many startling statistics - for example, seven millions people have been displaced internally - quite apart from the millions who have fled abroad

You can click here for Times Radio
The BBC is, perhaps, the most obvious news provider and often my first port of call. They have maintained their coverage well including reports from the front line - such as the case I mentioned near the beginning. You can read it here where Orla Guerin does a feature on a battered Donbas city

Of course, there are many online alternatives to the old Beeb these days. There's Times Radio (see above left) where you'll recognise many familiar former BBC faces such as John Pienaar interviewing retired American generals - among many others

The main way I stay on top of the agenda is by listening to the daily Telegraph podcast - Ukraine: The Latest. Most probably the easiest way of getting this is via YouTube (but no piccies - it's a podcast!). I find this daily update penetrating and informative. It must represent a significant investment on the part of this 
particular news outlet. The team includes Dominic Nicholls; he did did 23 years in the military before entering journalism and is spot on - in fact, the whole team is excellent - they even have a tame historian!

I also wish to give a plug to a news source from within the country - indeed, we need to hear the perspective of Ukrainians that is independent of government. If you click here, you'll go to the current front page of the Kyiv Independent - news, hot off the press, from inside the country

A deeply respectful farewell
I feel I cannot sign off without some reference to our Queen's departure. I was among those who were mesmerised by the deep respect shown by those in what became known as The Queue. The national nerve had been touched - a nerve that, perhaps, many did not know was there

As I mentioned earlier, the fact that the one funeral was so quickly followed by another added to the poignancy. Everything seemed so perfectly done - and in a way that, I suspect, will never be repeated. The Archbishop's funeral sermon was so appropriate in that his words that pointed beyond the Queen and her faith to the One in whom that faith was placed

So many moments could be picked out that it is almost invidious to highlight any. So much splendour but deep simplicity, too. I'm so glad that the Scots chose a psalm sung not by an operatic star but a folk singer - and in Gaelic, too. Here it is:

For those, like me, who do not have the Gaelic - here are the words from Psalm 118 

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.


.. best wishes from Garden Codger

PS - I'm hoping that the next edition will be out in four weeks time - that's the plan. Until then a few shots taken during August and September ... ...

Echinacea at RHS Bridgewater - this one is Rubinglow

Back at home - I think this one is Parasol (getting colder now - but I've still got a few available)

The Dutch like them, too. Photo during during a quick look around a huge garden centre

I think this dahlia is spectacular - can't stop photographing it

It looks good in the rain, too

Picked today. Pears ripen off the bough - a delight to anticipate: Doyenne du Comice

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