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China Girl blog 9th October 2019

The low-slanting light of autumn highlights the dying garden, making us all aware of the work to be done if the garden is to be put to bed within the next few months; this is, as usual our autumn aim. We always begin this mammoth task with the herbaceous border, which took three days to clear, and included trimming the standard yews and the small round yew balls.

Last week when Ma was in the greenhouse, a woman opened her large bag to pay for a plant and out tumbled plant material. Ma asked her if she had taken the cuttings from Cothay, she unashamedly replied “I always take cuttings from gardens I visit.” Of course, Ma was furious, saying “Suppose everyone stole from the garden?” Ma took her bag, tipped it on the floor saying “You are a thief, now leave and never come back!” All this reminded Ma of Lady Maconochie, who wrote a ditty in 1967, as follows:

Awake my muse, bring bell and book

            To curse the hand that cuttings took

            May ever sort of garden pest

            His little plot of ground infest

            Who stole the plants from Inverew,

            From Falkland Place, Cothay too?

            Let caterpillars and capsid bugs,

            Leaf-hoppers, thrips all sorts of slugs,

            Play havoc with his garden plot

            And a late frost destroy the lot!

Moles have been a problem by the river in the lower meadow. Wesley, who has been here for nearly thirty years, is the only person able to trap them. He said in his youth (he is now over 80 years old) that the local farmer gave him a penny for every mole he caught; how times have changed!

On another subject, which to her surprise, Ma read that it is only 50% of the world’s calories which are derived from only three plants – wheat, rice and corn (or maize as the Americans call it). Also, that 90% of the world’s food comes from only twenty plants.

Flowering are the asters, Michaelmas daisies coming mostly from North America and Europe; they make a lovely splash of colour, along with the hardy chrysanthemums. A whole bed would be lovely at this time of year, but we haven’t got around to this, it is yet another project.

The garden, as we put it to bed is full of fading memories, and Ma wishes that spring and summer would last a little longer.