Alex, autumn

Mud, Mud Inglorious Mud…

Blueberry Leaves In Autumn

It’s been a funny year.  It’s the end of November, but I’ve only started heating the greenhouse in the past few days. Our cherry trees, whose leaves usually turn glorious sunset colours before dropping, are hanging on like leaden green rags. Out in the wood there’s been more in the way of seasonal colour. Birch leaves are small and heart-shaped, hazel leaves deckle-edged discs. With the shortening days they’ve all turned bright yellow. One or two seedlings have escaped from the beech wood to light up the understorey of the conifer plantation. They make it look cheerful on the dullest day. When the sun shines, they really glow.

In the garden at Tottering Towers, the blueberry bushes always put on a great autumn show. They’re the plant with everything—beautiful flowers which bees love, delicious fruit, and each November they turn fiery red, without fail. They grow best in lime-free soil and must never dry out, but as they’ll grow happily in containers this isn’t a problem. Mine are planted in big plastic tubs filled with ericaceous compost. They stand in trays which I keep topped up with rainwater. Unlike most plants, blueberries don’t mind standing in water.

The whole countryside around here is used to wet feet. It’s been drizzly for weeks, but a few days ago the weather turned stormy. Torrential rain went on for hours, only relieved by heavy showers. The River Wye is higher than it’s been for months. Sliding down banks between forest tracks is like the worst episodes of cross-country running at school. With most of the leaves now off the sweet chestnuts of the bluebell wood and the ground covered with nuts, squirrels are everywhere. Alex, our retriever/labrador cross is far too slow to catch them before they spring up to safety in the trees. That doesn’t stop him trying. When we reach a road on our walks I put him on the lead for safety. I have to be careful to spot the squirrels before he does, as he’s prone to mad dashes. Yesterday, he saw a squirrel I didn’t, leapt forward and almost yanked the lead out of my hand. Next thing I knew, I was flat on my back looking up at the sky through those last few autumn leaves. I’d lost my footing on the muddy ground, and went down splat.  Luckily this happened only a hundred yards from our house. It was a cold, wet walk home!

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