Week 18th October

Monday 19th October – Migraine. Good painkillers see me relatively pain free but completely addled for a couple of hours thereafter. Quiet day.

Tuesday 20th October – Taking advantage of some warm sunshine, it’s a walk and lunch outside. Today we wander up Peak Hill, unusually there is no one around. This is a popular walking (and running) route and it’s good to not have panting runners in close proximity. These cliffs are fragile and there are frequent landslips – often relatively small but still quite a spectacle. Alternating very wet and dry weather make the slips more likely. We turn back at the edge of the woodland; the view across Lyme Bay on the return journey is spectacular.

Wednesday 21st October – Such a clear day today, we can see Portland Bill to the east from the cliff top and Berry Head to the west. Through the binoculars we can easily see the Mussel Farm that is off Sidmouth; we have never seen it before. It’s quite a big expanse of black buoys all sticking out of the water like rows of fenceposts. I shall have to read about it. A quick phone-Google reveals it’s going to be 15sq kilometres at full operation and produce up to 10,000 tonnes of native Blue Mussels per year. That’s a lot of mussels. And a big expanse of obstruction for anyone sailing across this part of Lyme Bay. And monoculture? Not always a good idea. Hmm.

Thursday 22nd October – We moved here in August last year and most of this year has been lost to Covid, so not much exploring beyond the very local area has been done. The beach and the cliff paths have been about it really, apart from a couple of excursions to Dartmoor and into Dorset. Today we have been planning some local circular walks of about 3 or 4 miles so that we can develop some favourites. There is pebble-bed heathland not far away that should be good for walking and for bird and wildlife spotting.

Friday 23rd October – Time to get some help in the garden for the autumn pruning and tidying. The bigger shrubs and trees are too much for us oldies to manage all year round so it’s time for the professionals. There is a cordyline australis tree that is very congested and needs clearing out and we have a lot of hedging which was castellated by the previous owner and actually looks quite nice (sort of retro), but it’s mixed hedging and is a devil to keep straight and even as it all grows at different rates! A huge eleagnus about 12 feet high forms a wind break, but is much too tall now so needs proper shaping and the cherry tree is looking old and sparse of leaf. Hopefully, miracles will be worked.

6 – on – Saturday 17.10.20

Hello everyone. Here’s the quickest six ever – too busy gardening in the sunshine!

First – Seeds and berries. Agapanthus, hypericum (plant of the devil), cotoneaster horizontalis.

Second – Autumn lovelies. Snow white cyclamen, fading hydrangea and aren’t-you-jealous-of-those nerines.

Third – Hardy geraniums being hardy – Roseanne, Orkney Cherry making a takeover bid, and Ann Folkard (I think).

Fourth – and the other sort, having a last gasp.

Fifth – autumn faithfuls and surprises – japanese anemone, bergenia cordifolia a tentative penstemon.

Sixth – wildlife. A frog.

So there they are. Six categories from the garden today. Don’t forget to check out this week’s Core Edge Journal from the menu across the top. Thanks.

Readers who are new to 6 – on – Saturday can join in easily – If you want to get a glimpse of lovely gardens from across the world, and chat to lots of lovely gardeners, then go here https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/  and join in!

As always – stay safe, wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands.

Week 11th October

Monday 12th October – Rain. A lot of it.

Tuesday 13th October – More rain. The sun puts in an appearance about 5pm, making the slice of Lyme Bay we can see from the window a brilliant, glittering, silver segment.

Wednesday 14th October – Sunshine and blue sky. Breezy. In the hollow where we begin our walk it is warm and sunny. The trees are an autumn paintbox of browns and russets, golds and yellows, green and lime. The beech trees are shedding their leaves already and the ground is dotted with the spiky shells from sweet chestnuts. Grey squirrels are everywhere. A group of crows twist through the trees, cawing noisily; just ahead of them is the buzzard they are chasing. As we crest the rise out of the hollow it is cold and windy and we soon turn and hurry back down the bank where it’s more sheltered.

Thursday 15th October – The cotoneaster outside the sitting room window is full of tiny, jewel red berries. Blackbirds feast on them in the morning, the wood pigeons balance precariously, gorging themselves, later in the day. I hope that one of these days we might see a fieldfare or a redwing – you never know. There are fields behind us where fieldfares gather in winter, although I haven’t seen any yet this year.

Friday 16th October – Clearing out the big garden bed for re-planting we are joined by a beautiful Common Frog. Shiny-skinned and beady-eyed it seems a little bewildered before hopping off into a more overgrown area. It may have been beginning hibernation, although it’s still a little early. I hope we didn’t disturb it too much.

World Mental Health Day

I’m not doing a 6 – on – Saturday today. But because it’s World Mental Health Day, I have written something about my own experience on my other blog. Take a look if you would like to.



Week 4th October

Monday 5th October – Yesterday the rain fell steadily all day. Today, after more rain this morning, the sky is lighter and the moisture is steaming up from the wood on Trow hill. The garden birds are returning – a pair of blackbirds, blue tits and, I think, the goldcrest dotting here and there in the fir tree. Soon be time to start feeding them. On the seafront, a few people are gathered watching the turnstones dash up and down and a group of housemartins are hawking overhead. How long before the martins leave for warmer climes, I wonder?

Tuesday 6th October – When I was a girl, if a funeral passed in the street people would stop and bow their heads and men would doff their caps to show respect. It doesn’t happen so much now. Today a funeral cortège drove slowly across the esplanade. A traditional funeral, a hearse and a following limousine with mourners, but with the addition of a ‘professional’ mourner walking ahead of the hearse, all the way to the local church. This is a rare sight. The mourner in frock coat and top hat – a young woman – pacing slowly and somewhat incongruously along the sea front. It was unusual enough for people to stop and look, one or two did bow their heads and older men removed their hats. I sometimes miss these old-fashioned demonstrations of respect. There are few now for the living, let alone the dead.

Wednesday 7th October – A lovely walk at Bicton Gardens today. The trees are beginning to turn, the acers flaming into reds and golds, the oaks dusty brown, the birch and beech shades of yellow. The herbaceous borders are bright with asters, day lilies, sedum and salvia. We walk in the American garden at the south of the site, impressed by the Wellingtonia with their scratchy, hairy red bark and straight trunks soaring upwards. There is an ancient and twisted Monterey pine and an old, rotting Dawn Redwood with tiny fairy toadstools growing in its niches.

Thursday 8th October – Breezy and showery. We pack up lunch and take it to Peak Hill. After a walk across the red cliffs we head for the seaward shelter in the Gardens to escape the showers and eat. The sky has moving stacks of white and grey cloud, breaks of blue where the sun silvers through on to the water. The horizon is palest, palest grey except where shower clouds just smudge that line between sea and sky. Just watching the sea and the clouds is such a delight. So peaceful.

Friday 9th October – Showery. Errands today, but still time for a brisk walk along the beach. There is a group of wetsuit-clad, middle aged women wading into the water. They form into a circle and dip their shoulders below the waves, then bob up and down, chatting and laughing, bright orange floats around them. It looks like a great way to meet your friends, chat, and get some exercise – and it doesn’t matter if it rains. There is obviously still some warmth in the water, it’s about 15C in there, which is warmer than the air temperature today.

Week 27th September

Sunday 27th September – No writing for a day or two this week, other things are getting in the way. Perhaps later on if things quieten down.

Tuesday 29th September – Michaelmas Day. The feast day of St Michael the Archangel, he who threw Lucifer down from Heaven to earth for his treachery. St Michael is also patron saint of the sea, maritime lands, ships and boatmen, horses and horsemen. It’s also said that when Lucifer fell to earth he landed in a blackberry bush and cursed the plant and its fruits, spitting on them. That’s why you shouldn’t pick blackberries after Michaelmas Day. Not only does the devil renew his curse annually, it’s bad luck to gather and eat them after this date. So don’t be tempted!

Wednesday 30th September – There are young wood pigeons in the garden this morning. Their plumage looks mostly grey – black tail feathers – they don’t yet have the soft, subtle colours of the adults. They also have a greyish beak and are without the white neck feathers that will be so prominent later on. They don’t seem to know what is eatable and what is not. They are pulling at the branches of the fir tree but I don’t think even a woodpigeon will eat pine needles!

Thursday 1st October – This October has two full moons. Tonight, the Harvest Moon and on the 31st the Hunter’s Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, so sometimes is in September, sometimes in October. It lies low in the sky, and often appears larger than usual. Named because its light helped in gathering the late harvest, its first use was recorded in 1706. Ted Hughes’ poem ‘The Harvest Moon’ gives a sense of almost supernatural effect, using words more associated with sound than sight and light. These few lines resonate, in every sense:

” The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.”

If you like poetry – or would like to like it more – I recommend Hughes’s ‘Season Songs’ from which this excerpt is taken.

Friday 2nd October – Storm Alex is upon us. The trees and shrubs are thrashing and waving, caught in the blustery, squally gusts. Overnight the water butts are full and overflowing – some good news from bad weather. At least this should soften the ground for bulb planting. Between showers the robin sings, marking his territory diligently even though he is nowhere to be seen.

6 – on – Saturday 26.09.20

Hello, it’s the Stranger here. My 6 on Saturday posts have become a bit hit and miss because of my other posts taking over…. but I promised myself I would do a 6 this week and so here it is, very nearly 6 on Sunday!

I’m not at all sure what this is, but I think some kind of cultivated meadowsweet – Filipendula? Or maybe some rampant weed that will take over the garden with the rest of them. I quite like it’s soft dusty pink flowers and it stands up well, not a flopper.

Is this ‘Ricky’? Or ‘Mrs Popple’? Again I’ve no idea. It’s one of the hazards of the inherited garden, not knowing what variety anything is, unless it’s screamingly obvious. This fuchsia is growing around the base of the cherry tree, coming up through the paving and generally behaving like a thug. I like it though, so I will do my best to keep it more controlled. Like as not, the fuchsia gall mite will get it before I do.

Third up is this rather fragile rose. It’s a beauty, but again, unknown to me. It looks rather lovely with those raindrops on it, and I particularly like the sort of watery colours melting together, like a watercolour in the rain.

For those who like that sort of thing, here are some Naked Ladies. Or Belladonna Lilies. I really like them. They are an inherited surprise, but not too difficult to identify. They’re called Naked Ladies because those lovely pink blooms appear at the top of bare purple stems, not a leaf to be seen.

And now the Nerines. Just flowering, they are quite a picture in the front garden at the moment. I never used to like them, funny, spidery things, but now I think they’re rather special. They’re not that easy to grow, and we have loads and loads of them. Inherited, of course, no skill involved.

Last is something that isn’t actually in my garden, but I wish it was. It’s a Japanese Cherry – Prunus serrula – and it has this beautiful bark. I’m on the look out for one for next year. Our existing cherry is old and probably not long for this world. Serrula would be a wonderful replacement.

So there they are. Five things from the garden today and one that I wish was in the garden. Don’t forget to check out this week’s Core Edge Journal from the menu across the top. Thanks.

Readers who are new to 6 – on – Saturday can join in easily – If you want to get a glimpse of lovely gardens from across the world, and chat to lots of lovely gardeners, then go here https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/  and join in!

As always – stay safe, wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands.

Week 20th September

Sunday 20th September – There is a rather lovely pink flower that has appeared unexpectedly in the front border. The colours are very delicate and so pretty. I don’t remember it being there last year – but that’s not to say it wasn’t.

It’s a Belladonna Lily – Amaryllis belladonna. Apparently it is sometimes called Naked Ladies because the flowers bloom at the top of bare stems. The stems are an interesting deep purple colour and there are no accompanying leaves – hence the Naked Ladies . It’s surprises like this that makes the garden such a joy.

Monday 21st September – Beautiful day with blue sky and sunshine all day. Four crows are balanced on the top of the fir tree across the road. They seem very self-contained, all of them facing in different directions away from each other, as if they’ve had an argument and are petulantly turning their backs on their friends. There is a throaty ‘caw’ and one lifts, floating above the tree, then they all take off and flap towards the woods on Trow Hill.

Tuesday 22nd September – Still warm, but overcast and a few spots of rain. The robin is enjoying where we hoed the veg bed yesterday, flicking up and down from the wall to the earth and back. Seems to be finding lots of things to eat. He is also in fine plumage now, red breast vivid and those liquid eyes so bright. I wish there was an easy way to tell male from female – I call it ‘he’, but who knows? He might be a she.

Wednesday 23rd September – There is a changing feel to the weather. It’s definitely cooler today. The liquidambar tree in a neighbour’s garden is becoming a dirty rusty green colour, but in a week or two it will turn a deep rich red. It’s a marker of autumn proper for us. There were four wood pigeons in the garden this morning – they always come down from the fields in numbers and into the gardens as the season turns. They are not very vocal at the moment. Probably just as well; a concerted chorus of wood pigeons coo-coooo-coo-cooing together would surely drive us to distraction!

Thursday 24th September – A walk along the beach and we can really feel the drop in temperature. Puffa jackets are out for the first time this season and a warm hat is a must. The wind is blustery and from the north-east, so pretty chilly. The tide is high and the sea is rolling in with sandy-coloured waves pounding and dragging the shingle. Two brown-flecked juvenile gulls are playing in the wind, head-on, tilting to maintain position, then banking away over the sea to ride out the gusts. Two cormorant fly low and settle on the choppy waves. We try to keep them in sight as they rise and fall with the swell, diving from time to time and bobbing up in a different spot. We can see a heavy shower moving across the water and we head home before it starts to rain.

Friday 25th September – Blimey, it’s cold! Our walk on the sea front is hard work against the wind, but the sun is bright and the sky is blue. The sea is sparkling with jewels of sunlight and surprisingly flat considering the wind. Two brave people are swimming – well, treading water and chatting really – the sea is still relatively warm and they look comfortable and relaxed. More comfortable than those of us battling against the wind on the Esplanade!

Week 13th September

Sunday 13th September – The weather is warming up again. We are in for a short burst of late summer before September is out. Some might refer to this as an ‘Indian’ summer, but this is a phrase from the USA and although widely used here, it’s not really appropriate. In the UK, these periods of late, fine weather would be linked to the church calendar. In mid-October it would have been called ‘St Luke’s Little Summer’ – St Luke’s feast day is on the 18th – and in mid-November it would be a ‘St Martin’s Summer’ as his feast day is on the 11th. Shakespeare also had a name for these summer days in autumn, he called it ‘All Halloween Summer’ for warm sunshine when October fades into November.

Monday 14th September – Ridiculously hot for mid-September. We recorded 27C in the garden today. Too hot to do anything – lost days. Speaking of lost days, here’s something interesting about September: in 1752 Britain decided to move from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar to bring itself into line with most of Europe. As a result, 3rd September instantly became 14th September and eleven days disappeared. It’s fair to say that nothing whatsoever happened in British history between 3rd and 13 September 1752. There is an urban myth, discounted by historians, that some people were so outraged at this theft of days that there were riots. However, there is more truth in stories that some people thought their lives had been shortened and were very angry indeed.

Tuesday 15th September – overcast and still hot. No breeze and quite oppressive – to me anyway, it’s head-achey and stifling.

Wednesday 16th September – A little cooler so a trip out to Bicton Gardens to wander in the shade of the arboretum. I’ve written about these gardens before in here and the trees really are spectacular. Not just the British natives, but the many mature conifers too. Redwood, Monterey Pine, Atlas cedar, the tallest recorded Grecian fir (41 metres) and an avenue of Monkey Puzzle trees amongst many others. If you’re ever in east Devon, pay a visit. We watched nuthatches in a stand of oak trees, flitting back and forth, their grey-blue backs and long pointed bill make them such an elegant little bird. As we stood quietly they were joined by coal, blue and, I think, marsh tits, but maybe willow tits. They are fiendishly difficult to distinguish between. Two grey squirrel pottered under the trees, quite oblivious to us. At our feet shaggy inkcap toadstools were just beginning to frill out their blackening skirts. It is autumn, in spite of the warmth.

Thursday 17th September – Still unseasonably hot and still. I can see a cloud of wasps around a neighbour’s apple tree, coming and going amongst the branches. I can’t see where they are going to though, but definitely not into our garden, so the nest is elsewhere. Phew.

Friday 18th September – The berries on the cotoneaster hedge are finally a ripe and vivid red. The wood pigeons are taking advantage of them, although they are clumsy on the filigree of branches. Later in the evening a cock blackbird comes down to investigate but doesn’t stay long. I’m sure he’ll be back. And a little flotilla of long-tailed tits swing by to bathe in the water fountain, splashing and twittering and shoving each other out of the way – like children at an outdoor pool.

Week 6th September

Sunday 6th September – Now that part of the veg bed has been cleared, the sparrows are loving the bare earth. Swooping in to forage for insects and to dirt-bathe, making shallow cups in the soil where they have wriggled and flapped. There is a mini-flock of about a dozen birds – I wonder if they’re a family group? – male and female house sparrows, Passer domesticus. Although they’re seen widely in urban and rural areas, their numbers have dropped dramatically; by as much as 70% in England. It’s hard to imagine these common little birds being on the UK conservation red list. Here’s an interesting little snippet: in 2005 a house sparrow got into the Frisian Expo Centre in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands during the preparations for Domino Day (where those huge patterns of standing dominoes are built and then filmed as they fall consecutively). Yes, this little bird knocked over more than 32,000 dominoes and earned itself a new latin title, all to itself – Passer dominomous. The Domino Sparrow. Although I bet they called it something completely different at the time…

Monday 7th September – The abelia at the front of the house is having its second flowering and the front pathway is heady with sweet scent. It is full of bumblebees drowsily fumbling their way from one bloom to another. There are white-tail and buff-tail, common carder and garden bumblebees all happily feasting together. The garden bumblebee, Bombus hortorus, has the longest tongue of all the common bumbles, up to 2cm in length, which means it can feed on longer tubular flowers. If you get close enough, you’ll also see that it has a longer face than others too. I’ve been trying to see this while there are so many around, but they don’t really keep still for long enough, or their faces are buried in the flowers!

Tuesday 8th September – A balmy day today, it could be early summer. Real warmth in the sun, no breeze and the light is soft.

Wednesday 9th September – The house martins are still flying over the cliff, about a dozen today, calling and darting after insects. They will soon be gathering and flying south for the winter. At the same time, arriving from the north are the turnstones, seen on the esplanade this morning for the first time since before summer. About six of them, so more to come, but it’s lovely to see these little birds come back year after year. Some may stay over the summer months, but we don’t see them on the beach. They run back and forth in a little group, red legs moving so quickly, then take flight onto the rocky breakwater to look for insects around the stones.

Thursday 10th September – I’ve noticed that the herring gulls are no longer spending time on the local rooftops. Any youngsters have obviously flown by now and the birds are spending their time down on the shore which is about a thirty second flight from here, or on the arable fields which are about a ten second flight. They still circle and call overhead late in the day, probably on their way to roost, but they are no longer a constant noisy presence – until next spring.

Friday 11th September – here is the season evocative beginning of Helen Hunt Jackson’s poem ‘September’:

The golden rod is yellow, the corn is turning brown, the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down.

Hmm. I wasn’t too impressed either.