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China Girl blog 7th November 2019

It has rained every day for a month, or rather it seems to have done. Memories like light and shade flit through these autumn days, each day a pattern of the day before. So far there has been only one light frost; hardly noticeable, its white fingers visible for a short time on the grass.

The past week was much like any November day, clearing the garden ready to fork and dig over. The bare brown earth shows up the old yew hedges, their bright green lines silhouetted against the watery sky.

We have a young man doing work experience – Ashton, who comes each week on Fridays. Chris is guiding and looking after him; Ashton is very shy and somewhat withdrawn, but Chris finds him neat and tidy and although he talks little, he seems keen to learn.

Our wandering hedgehog comes and goes, eating the delicious special hog food we put out for him in the porch. Ma wishes he was like Chris’s gang in her garden in Langford Budville, who arrive each night. She watches them, sometimes as many as five, feasting from the same bowl.

Looking at the small colony of autumn-flowering cyclamen, Ma was reminded of when she saw drifts of them flowering in the woods in Turkey long ago. She was on a botanical trip with the botanist Oleg Polunin. Ma was with her friend Thomasina, who had been reading Rose Macaulay’s ‘Towers of Trebizond.’ When we arrived in Trebizond, Thomasina was very keen to visit the hotel where Rose Macaulay had stayed. Thomasina asked the hotel receptionist if we could visit the hotel. There was a gasp of horror, the manager was summoned, and a long discussion took place in Turkish. After a while the manager bowed, saying “You do realise Ladies, that the hotel you ask for is a brothel? ” How times have changed!

Despite the wind and rain, the stunning swamp cypress Taxodium distichum, which stands on an island in the lake, is breathtakingly spectacular, with its red autumn colouring. Growing in the wild in mango swamps in the Everglades, somewhat rare in Britain. We planted it about twenty-five years ago and it has now reached about thirty feet in height.

Roll on the crisp winter days of our beloved island, for nowhere else on earth are our gardens more beautiful.