Autumn Foraging

Elderberries on Sambucus tree

Misty mornings and the leaves are ochre and gold. There’s a nip in the air and the hedges are dripping with berries. Time for a spot of autumn foraging! Here are 4 vitamin-packed fruits to collect in autumn.

Elderberries

Elderberries ripen in late summer or early autumn. Pick the berries when they are fully ripe. You want them to look almost black, so if they are still green or burgundy, wait a little longer. Use a pair of scissors to snip the cluster of berries away.

Be certain you know what you are looking for as there are some poisonous lookalikes. If you need help to identify the elder tree, the Woodland Trust has some useful advice here.

Separate the...

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Autumn Colours

Autumn Leaves - Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

The trees are looking spectacular at the moment and it’s hard to resist taking yet another photograph of the glowing colours at canopy level. But down on the ground, there are some hardy perennials which are still flowering their socks off!

Here’s my choice for the best 5 perennials for autumn colour.

Helenium

These are stunning perennials with daisy-like flowers on an upright, clump-forming plant. They flower profusely from mid-summer into the autumn.

Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ has glorious autumnal colours – fiery orange-red rays surrounding a velvety brown central disc. The rays reflex strongly as the flowers age. It has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

‘Pipsqueak’ has yellow rays surrounding a velvety yellow and...

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Blackberry Days

Blackberries

Last night, as dusk was falling, I took the dog for a walk across the fields. The intense heat of the day had mellowed to balmy warmth, a gentle breeze drifting across from the estuary.

The scorching Indian summer is confusing the seasons. It feels like a glorious day in the heat of summer, yet the fields are harvested, the leaves are turning and the hedges dripping with dusky sloes and jewel-like blackberries. My two columnar pear trees, Beurré Hardy and Doyenné du Comice, are heavy with fruit. The step-over is keeping the family supplied with crisp, yellow-red Falstaff apples.

It’s tempting to head off to the seaside to take advantage of this late offering of sunshine. Or pull out...

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A Good Year for Pears

Weatherstaff Harvest Pyrus Doyenne du Commice

The BBC reported that Herefordshire Perry cider makers were suffering this year from a poor pear harvest. Not so in my garden, I’m delighted to report. After 6 years of divvying up a solitary pear amongst our family of five, for the very first time I am hunting out cunning new recipes for enjoying our pear harvest.

I wouldn’t go so far as to report a glut of pears. What we have is one of those vertical, column-trained trees, carrying fruit along its single upright stem. Actually, we have two of these – one Beurré Hardy and one Doyenné du Comice – planted over half a decade ago and spectacularly failing to keep us supplied with pears – until...

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Does a garden add value to your home?

Narcissus Hawera

Most buyers are prepared to pay extra for a home with a garden. According to Phil Spencer, of Location, Location, Location, outside space could increase the value of your property by up to 20%.

We can be reasonably sure, though, that a well cared-for, colourful garden is a far more attractive proposition than a weedy, cluttered outside area.

So, whether you are intending to put your house on the market or stay put, you have all the justification you need for spending more time pottering in your garden.

Autumn is a good time for tidying up, cutting back spent flowers and clearing away fallen leaves. It’s worthwhile spending time thinking about how your garden has looked over the course of...

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Sloe Gin

Sloe Gin

A postscript to Season of Muddy Dog

The collected sloes lay like shiny glass beads in the colander, I had staggered back from the supermarket with an armful of gin bottles (“Couldn’t you just mention they’re for sloes?” muttered my embarrassed daughter) and amassed my kilner jars. I was all ready for a bottling session.

There’s something very therapeutic about being creative in the kitchen. I felt like a Victorian pharmacist, lovingly creating my recipes and remedies. Or perhaps an old wise woman. (Though not so very wise – having removed the metal bands from my jars, it took me quite a long time to reassemble them. Not so old either…)

The recipes I’d gathered were reassuringly varied. There were...

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