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China Girl Blog 20th October 2016

A faint echo of summer lingers in the air, as slowly the dying year catches us unaware and the garden begins to settle for its long rest. Despite this, we have all been hard at work, cutting herbaceous plants to the ground; not as many folk do, leaving six inches or so, or waiting until the spring, to tidy up by removing all the top growth, the risk of disease getting into the plants through mouldy stems is eliminated and more importantly, when new growth starts, damage is eliminated when removing old material to the new young shoots. All plants which may be at risk from a hard winter are mulched with what is at hand, such as bracken, woodchip, compost, or even as we do, double glazing, by putting either plastic or glass bell jars over the more vulnerable and precious plants.

Dearest and I went to far away Cornwall to visit Charlie, Mother’s youngest, who lives in a lovely cottage in a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere.  The landscape is different from that of lush Somerset, the trees stunted and bent from the wind blowing off the sea.  We brought back three black and white call ducks to join our noisy gaggle who live on the Reflection Pool in front of the house.

The leaves on the trees are beginning to fall. Always the first to lose its leaves is the Kentucky Coffee Tree, Gymnocladus dioica, so called as the early settlers made a substitute coffee from its beans.  Here the tree seldom flowers and never sets seed.  For many years the Gymnocladus grew only in Kentucky.  Years later, it was discovered growing in reservations, to where the indigenous Americans had been resettled.  They had taken the beans with them, using them in a game of dice.

We all love the colours of autumn. The lovely shades of the leaves occur with cold nights and warm sunny days. The carbohydrate levels in the leaves changes when the chlorophyll slows and stops.

The Plant of the Week is the South African bulb, Nerine bowdenii, where it grows in the Eastern Cape province, through to the Drakensberg Mountains, growing in great quantity on cliffs and rocks. This variety is commonly cultivated in Europe. The leaves emerge in late winter, deciduous in late summer, flowering in autumn. Nerines are best grown when planted under a warm wall.  These glorious shocking pink bulbs are an autumn joy, and are easy to grow.

I forgot to mention that China Girl is my nom-de-plume; my given name is Dar-Lin-Girl, which Dearest says you pronounce Darling Girl, which she says I am. When I said I needed a bath as I had got dirty chasing the ducks, she said “I can only please one person a day and today is not your day and tomorrow doesn’t look good either!”

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