In the old Julienne calendar, autumn began on the 1st of August; the days shorten and you can feel the change in the air. The garden is silent, for in August the birds no longer sing and in the surround fields the corn is ripening. The changeability of the garden sets in. The controlled freedom of late summer is upon us, but still the garden is lovely, as the fading flowers give way to beautiful seed-heads in the coming months. In the Inner Court, still flowering gloriously are the 5 feet-tall Verbena bonariensis; here they seed about in the gravel. Native to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, where they grow in wet fields and waste places. The purple flowers on long stems sway elegantly in the warm breeze; easy to grow, they are hardy too, at -10oC.
Ma and I were walking through the house when she reminded me of the great pleasure of collecting antique objects, which add to the atmosphere in this ancient house. We walked through the Book Room, where there is a table with Japanese treasures; the table is covered with a casa which is an 18th century Buddhist Monk’s cloak, made of squares of silk sewn together. The Buddhist monks took a vow of poverty, but liked beautiful robes, so bought expensive silk, cut it into squares and then sewed it together, which made it alright! Ma was given the casa by an old friend who found it in the attic. When Ma told her how valuable it was and wanted to give it back, her friend said “no, it is just right for Cothay, I’ll see if there is another in the attic”
All this reminded Mother of her Japanese student Masaco who when she arrived, told Ma the house was like a museum and that in Japan they preferred new things. After a month, she caught the collecting bug and loved to go with Ma to antique fairs. She loved England and wanted to find an English husband, but sadly this was not to be. Mother grew to love Masaco and when she returned to Japan after nearly a year, she took a piece of Mother’s heart with her.
Dearest Mother says I am her favourite flower, a little pansy with a sooty face.