Year of Grace, Day 201. The garden in early September

I’ve just been photographing the last of the hazelnuts – I hadn’t realized the squirrels had left us some. In previous years, there hadn’t been any for us to taste at all. These hazelnuts taste remarkably like almonds – fresh off the tree, they are full of creamy milk.

The contorted hazel in particular has never had any fruit before. I now realize why. While digging up beneath it to put in some wild species tulips and other bulbs last autumn, my spade kept hitting concrete. And just when I thought I’d gotten it all, there was more. The whole area beneath the tree had been encircled with paving! I took out as much of it as I could and used the large fragments, as much as 30 – 45 cm long, as stepping stones elsewhere. And perhaps thankful for the influx of rain, the contorted hazel tree has finally put forth fruits.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the grapes as well. There’s no fruit on the main trunk itself, but a stray vine has clambered up among the Euonymus bushes at the northern edge of the garden. And now three years later, we have fruit that has ripened, also for the first time. They are quite tasty and sweet. And although a few have been pecked at, by birds no doubt, most of the bunches are unscathed. They could probably have done with another day of sun, but I thought I’d rather they were just on the tart-sweet side than all eaten up by the magpies.

One of the blue hydrangea bushes is soldiering on, with a few bunches of late flowers. The earlier flowers are now sporting autumnal colours.

Geranium “Rozanne” seems to have gotten its second wind with a new flush of flowers.

The artichokes in the back garden are putting out new leaves, after enjoying the rains we’ve been having. One of them is in bloom – and glimpsed from afar, the blue-mauve spikes are strikingly fluorescent.

Amazingly I haven’t seen any bees buzzing around it at all. The bees seem to prefer the yellow Helenium flowers on my experimental “prairie patch,” at the back in the photo below. To the right is Verbena bonariensis, one of my favourites, and in the foreground is geranium “Rozanne,” a most prolific bloomer.

While I was photographing the garden, a woman on a bike on the path outside stopped, got off, and said hello when she saw me. “What a lovely garden.” she said. “I always admire it, whenever I pass by. There’s always something new coming up.”

“My little bit of wilderness, “I said deprecatingly.

“Not at all. I love it! A cottage garden. Very English,” said she.

It turns out that although she lives up the road, they have a holiday home in Kent. No wonder she knows about English cottage gardens.

On a lovely, sunny autumn day like this, it is simply wonderful to indulge in a chat with a passerby who appreciates my kind of higgledy-piggledy gardening style, and who recognizes it as an English cottage garden.

And when she learned I was leaving at the end of the month, she said, “Oh, what a shame. Just when I’d finally gotten to meet and talk to the maker of this cottage garden that I pass through and admire everyday.”

“Ja, das ist das Lebens!” said I. That is so like life indeed. Just when I meet a kindred spirit who loves cottage gardens as much as I do, it is time to say farewell. It is a good way to leave a place, I think.

The best way actually. It’s best to leave, wanting to have stayed just a bit longer.

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