Blackberries

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The first nip in the air signals a change of season and the start of the blackberry harvest

The turning of the year as we travel through the seasons was a huge factor in pulling us back to the UK. The recent change in the weather, with its wonderful chilly bright mornings and nippy evenings, has warmed my heart. Whilst the other seasons have their appeal I can’t love them half as much as I love Autumn.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberries

Autumn is our season. The most potent memories of the last ten years with my wife belong to this time of year. It is the season of our wedding, of our first kiss, and of our first meeting. It also marks the onset of a series of celebrations and birthdays stretching all the way to Christmas.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Mollie our Golden Retriever enjoys a foray into the green lanes

I am not a summer child; the sight of me in shorts should be enough to banish any misunderstanding on that matter. Instead, I am happiest in warm jumpers, walking boots, and damp woodland. Days spent walking the dog under a tree canopy are my favourite. Also at this time of year comes the bounty of hedgerow harvests. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

This year I read Alys Fowler’s book on foraging and I’m making an effort to note the harvest when it presents itself. Already this year I have Crabapple Vodka and Sloe Gin steeping in the larder, all collected from the hedgerows and trees around our village. The other important harvest of the season is blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
A view over the Devon hills

Blackberries

I think the ritual of blackberry collecting, bound up as it is in the season, might be even better than the fresh berries themselves. I’m working my way through a jar of blackberry and apple jam made 3 years ago which I find infinitely more alluring than the fresh berries. September signals the start of hunting season for blackberries.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Not all the berries ripen at the same time

So, with my jumper on for the first time since moving home, we ascend a local hill to find the best berries. Jewel-like berries gleam from the yellowing hedgerow senescence. The bunches of berries carry both mature and immature fruits. The rule of foraging that states you only take a third of the crop you find (the other two-thirds being left for wild animals and someone else) reinforced by the plant itself.

The light prickling on skin reminds you that no harvest comes for free. This only intensifies the sensory experience. You feel like the proverbial child in the sweetshop picking only the choicest fruits between thumb and forefinger. The idea to bring surgical gloves comes to me as I notice the purple staining on my fingertips, as it does every year but is never remembered.

It’s not long before my cheeks are chilled and the light becomes thinner. It’s time to go home.

Blackberries, mypottingbench, mypottingbenchblog, hedge, hedgerow, harvest, hedgerowharvest, autumn, autumnal, September, berry, fruit, native, native harvest, blackberry jam, blackberry pie, blackberry recipes, apple, Devon, countryside, gardening, gardeningblog, gardening blog, allotment, allotment blog, garden, seasonal, seasonal harvest, free food,
Blackberry harvest

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden

Starting the tidy up the cottage garden – it’s time for a change with the box topiary

The first time I really took notice of box hedging was seeing it Monty Don’s garden on Gardeners World. Before that, it had gone unnoticed, the white noise of the garden, and passed over for the more dynamic and exciting flowering plants behind.

Exploring a garden through the year, particularly winter gardening, gives you an appreciation of form and structure.  Pouring through coffee-table books can provide great inspiration. Look at page 169 of Diarmuid Gavin’s Planting and the argument for strong topiary shrubs is won; It depicts a wintery scene after the grasses have been knocked by frost, their bronzed, hoary foliage horizontal to the bold upright of Beech columns. Once you have your eye in, these subtle punctuation points become clearer; it’s like seeing the puppet strings and understanding the show better.

Box Topiary: A question of shape and style

Are you a sphere-lover? Cone aficionado? Novelty peacock?

I like the classics; the box balls and the rectangular. If I ever get the dream acreage I’m going to put in a Piet Oudolf inspired grass and perennial garden with upright beech columns to give drama.

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
Columnar hedges at RHS Wisley in Surrey

The planting at Wisley is saved in the memory bank should I need it.

A reminder of what I’m working with

As I have previously shared, in MyPottingBench Returns Home, the ‘Immediate Garden’ is the long shady area of the garden immediately outside the back doors. It was overgrown and very messy when we returned. The box balls were shaggy and looked to be blending into the borders.

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
Looking up towards the Far Garden
Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
A better view of the main bed

After some tinkering…

I have decided to change the shape of the box balls. I have lots of dumpling-shaped plants – the astrantia, the geraniums – and I thought it would be nice to bring a fresher feeling. Although the balls now have first day back at school haircuts and are looking a little shocked.

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
The box balls are now box cubes
Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
The shuttlecock ferns and gladiolus now stand proudly

Giving the box more definition has actually improved what they’re defining in the border so the whole thing seems more orderly.

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
A sole allium making the most of the green background

I have pinned back the climbing roses and clematises against the supports which helped to bring some order to the space. This restored the upright and the box cubes now echo that.

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
Aquilegia ‘Nora Barlow’ showing the pastel colours this area is supposed to contain

Re-shaping the box topiary made it easier to see what else was in the garden. My immediate reaction on seeing the beds was that it was pure chaos. I was wrong. There was some weeding needed, which I have done, and some spent flower heads that have been chopped. What’s left is fine.

There’s not too much more I am going to do much to this area this year as it’s looking okay. The plan is to add in some annuals as there is a lot of green and not much colour due to arrive. I can then spend the winter planning for next year!

Box Topiary: Tidying the Immediate Garden
The door to the Far Garden is closed as that’s a mess

I’m debating on whether to paint the back fence to bring some more colour into the garden. We’ll see.  It’s also the gateway into the Far Garden at that is going to be a much bigger task to bring it in line.