This morning all is quiet outdoors, and the birds seem overjoyed. As am I. The pipe works and their unceasing racket seem to have been suspended today. As I came downstairs, there in its brilliant red, white, and black plumage was a woodpecker, surveying the garden from its perch on the teepee that’s supporting the white and pink Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora ‘Limelight.’ Before I could get my camera, it had flown away. But it had already given to my morning such a special and auspicious beginning. Thank you, Ms. or Mr. Woodpecker.
On the lawn, peacefully snacking on diverse edibles brought out by yesterday’s rain were several birds — thrushes and blue tits and blackbirds. Last year, one female blackbird was overly territorial and shooed any other bird that came near her domain, which is the space around the blue hydrangeas. Today, thankfully, she is not around, and every bird is happily walking or hopping about, calmly stalking and hunting without being disturbed or chased away. A red squirrel has just bounded across the lawn. Red squirrels, once an endemic species, are now a rarity in the UK because they have been supplanted by the American grey species brought over in previous centuries. It is a typical autumn day, overcast, no rain as yet. It is a good day for working in the garden and immersing myself into what I consider the happiest place on earth – a garden.
In contrast to my teens, when I knew by heart what television program was scheduled for which day and which time, I don’t watch television much now. The exception is my absolute favourite, and that is the BBC’s Gardeners’ World series, which airs on Friday nights. Now living outside the UK, I cannot access BBC, nor do I wish to have a satellite dish to be able to. I am ever so grateful to have discovered recently a most wonderful Dutch blog, Floratube at wordpress.com. This site not only gives me access to current and past broadcasts of English but also French gardening shows, as well as Dutch ones on landscaping, garden design, and everything to do with plants and gardening. The Gardeners’ World episodes are posted normally a day or two after their airing in the UK. Three weeks ago, I was dismayed to find that week’s episode missing. It’s amazing how much not seeing that one episode disappointed me. But yesterday, upon checking again, there it was! So a huge thank you to Michaël Bakker, who owns and maintains the site. All power to you, Michaël, and may you continue to offer brilliant gardening and design posts on your blog.
Gardeners’ World is presented by Monty Don, who is most likely to be the dishiest gardener-presenter on television. Ever. I am certain there are many who have become fascinated by gardening, or who have taken to watching the series, just because of him and his gorgeousness (do I sound smitten?). Monty, whose full name is Montague, is one of my heroes. He and his wife had an extremely successful jewelry design business, but when that failed, they turned to gardening. And the colourful gems that used to inspire their jewelry designs have been translated into a Jewel Garden, stocked with plants brilliant in colour, not only in flower, but also in leaf and stem. I am grateful for all the inspiration for organic gardening and garden design that I get from Longmeadow, Monty Don’s own garden and farm, where the series is filmed.
I am thankful too that the UK is such an ideal country for those who love gardens and gardening and plants, and that the Royal Horticultural Society invests so much into its showcase gardens and plant-related activities. In particular, it tests plant varieties for their reliability under British conditions. These plants that have successfully weathered rigorous testing are given an Award of Garden Merit, and are distinctly labeled with the green AGM badge everywhere they are sold in the UK.
I have just watched an old broadcast that focused on four Royal Horticultural Society Gardens, each with different climates. From the flagship Wisley Garden to a low rainfall site in Essex, which gets less average annual rainfall than Jerusalem or Beirut (quite astonishing to those who imagine England to be always rainy!) to a more typical English wet, clay site in North Devon, which is also more like the site on which I garden here in Bonn. There are even more northerly ones – in exposed, windy sites in North Yorkshire and Scotland. Some day I hope to visit them all.
What I took with me from that episode is that autumn is the best time for planting — for taking cuttings and rooting them, as well as planting out any container-grown plants. The soil is warm, there is ample rain, and these are ideal conditions for starting out plants. I shall be doing this now. Thank you for all your wonderful gardening advice, Gardeners’ World, and thank you again to Floratube for bringing it to me.
I attach some photos from my English garden, which I took over from its previous German owner. I find it interesting that there was this link with Germany even then. Over more than ten years I converted its straight-edged formality into the more freely flowing, cottagey, wildish style that suits my personality and my taste more.