It is official. Autumn is here. And it is here to stay. Better get used to it. There was a time when I used to wax lyrically about the months from September to December, especially if autumn wasn’t really autumn, but manifested itself in lengthy spells of Indian summer.
But such balmy days, let alone weeks, are rare in Shetland and what we usually get instead is a “day between weathers”. The term “weathers” in this context is difficult to define, as it can mean anything from howling gales to endless rain, grey skies and drizzle (also endless), hail, snow, the odd early blizzard.
We did get three days between weathers recently – glorious blue skies and sunshine, warm enough to discard socks, wellies, jacket and jumper to get a much needed vitamin D3 top-up after what has been a rather dull summer.
The “mould” in the title is a little misleading, but “various fungal infections” didn’t fit into my alliteration. They lurk in every garden, but are always more prevalent during a cool, damp season. They continue to lurk, and become a headache if the gardener, myself in this case, puts her head in the sand and hopes they’ll go away. They don’t. They keep on devouring healthy plant tissue with breakneck speed and, once they’ve polished off their favourite hosts, move onto other plants in the vicinity.
It was comforting to see the same fungal afflictions in some gardens on the Scottish mainland I visited recently, and even more comforting to learn that the gardeners simply ignored them, as it was futile to apply fungicidal sprays once the infections had manifested themselves.
This I agree with. All fungicides available to the amateur gardener are prevention rather than cure, and having a garden based on organic principles means fungicides are a no-no anyway. But there is still something the gardener can do.
Plants worst afflicted at Lea Gardens were hellebores, lilies, hostas and peonies, in that order. We removed and destroyed all affected leaves and stems, then mulched the areas heavily to prevent the spores from rising from the soil once more and starting their destructive little games all over again. So far so good.
Some of our trees, especially poplars and alders, have suffered from disfiguring leaf spots for a couple of years now. There is no doubt that they are caused by some fungus, but using the methods which have proved successful with herbaceous plants are not practical here. It is simply impossible to defoliate dozens of mature and semi-mature of trees and burn their leaves.
The herbaceous fungus control method was also used on a specimen of Cordyline australis. I’d noticed some of its leaves turning yellow in the middle of summer and on closer inspection found the leaf bases rotting and brown. Stripped back to healthy foliage, the plant regained a sort of sprightly appearance, but my resulting optimism was brief. The rot returned.
Surely I won’t have to elaborate on the subject of mud? It’s the stuff that squelches underfoot and cakes every tool, boot and glove once the heavy equinoctial rains have taken their toll on beds, paths and borders.
This leaves misanthropy. Why do people insist on continuing their garden visits during autumn’s days of mud, mould and massive downpours ( those dripping umbrellas)?. I don’t approve of that and them. Don’t they (visitors not umbrellas) realise that by now, the gardener rests on her laurels, is reluctant to leave the house, reclines on a sofa in garments wholly unsuited to outdoor pursuits, eats Polish chocolate jellies, while watching a dvd, arrived from Amazon that very morning? Those knocks on the door, just as the plot begins to thicken, have been known to turn me misanthropic.
This week’s offering left me with an illustrations dilemma, which I have now solved. Rather than photographing mud and mould, I’ll show my autumn garden’s inhabitants from a slightly better angle.