Where Did Autumn Go?


..Spirited away on the wind.

We seem to have gone from the lushness of late summer straight into the bedraggled landscape of winter with hardly a moment to catch breath. First the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia and then, within a week, the ravages of Storm Brian. The humble homestead was littered with fallen branches and, indeed, a couple of entire trees. The leaves first to turn were swept away before they had a chance to fully colour up. A few remain dangling forlornly, picked out by the low rays of the sun.



For much of the month the soil has been wet, claggy and almost impossible to work but in the drier spells I’ve pressed on with the clearing. Weeding here is on an epic scale. We’ve recently purchased three new compost bins but even they would be overwhelmed by the amount of green material now being produced.



I can easily fill a builders merchant’s dumpy bag in a morning. Especially now that ‘Rules’ have been imposed in terms of their capacity. Apparently an overly stuffed one is too heavy to drag away. The wheelbarrow is deployed to further assist the process.

The sheer volume of garden detritus makes it impractical to cart it off to the local tip for council composting so our only real option is to burn it.



Mike will get rid of all of this in a day when bonfire conditions are perfect. The trick, I am told, is to establish a hot base. Once his base is deemed sufficiently toasty he loads it up, armful by armful, keeping a vigilant eye out for any hedgehogs that might have already crept underneath the enticing piles and put up their Do Not Disturb signs.

In an ideal world weed clearance on this scale should be a one off exercise. If I did it often enough, ongoing maintenance would produce less in the way of triffids and reduce the amount of garden waste to something I should be able to manage through composting. Another reason for treating 2018 as a consolidation year. Even without new projects there is enough work to do to keep me usefully employed for most of each day.



First incursion into the woodland at the end of last month



A similar view today

The extracted green stuff is mostly brambles and Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) which forms dense mats of white roots. Removing it is much like lifting turf: shove the tines of the fork underneath and then strip it away in large clumps. I doubt I’ve got it all. Any roots that remain will sprout new plants. But it’s a necessary job. This stuff blankets the ground and smothers just about anything else.



Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’. The first shrub to go back in.

Such a ridiculous name. Just as well it’s pretty.


There will be more shrubby woodlanders to follow on next year creating a middle storey under the trees, underplanted with shade loving ground cover: geraniums, hellebores, epimediums. Tough perennials which will more or less look after themselves. And from this spot now I have a different view.. the far side of the Precipitous Bank merging into the woodland and becoming contiguous with it. New vistas are always so exciting.



November and December are not exactly my favourite months. By the time we get through to January the days are getting noticeably longer, the shoots of snowdrops are pushing up above the soil and the first colour on the witch hazels is just peeking out. From now until then there will be much snuggling up with books on shade gardening to help me to plan.



Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’

I’m not entirely bereft of autumn colour though.



Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Emerald Lace’



Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

The acer with the most intense colour is also one of the last to lose its leaves. That, and its relatively sheltered position, meant that it survived the worst of the October storms. In a few more days, especially now the night temperatures have started to fall, it will be a blaze of red.




According to WordPress this is my 500th post. Well who’d a thought it. I decided to mark the occasion by giving the ole blog a bit of a spruce up. As usual with these things what seems like such a little bit of tweaking turns into anything but and I return indebted to help desks the length and breadth of the planet. Perhaps I’d better make the most of it now and post more often..



Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

‘Till next time..


Linking to Steve for the End of Month View (here) and to Sarah’s Through The Garden Gate (here).

Will they have had more luck holding on to some late season colour?


2017-10-31T21:06:59+00:00October 31st, 2017|Tags: |


  1. Marian St.Clair October 31, 2017 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Glad to hear you survived the storms; I was worried about you, especially when I saw Ophelia headed your way. We finished removing 3 more trees today, all left in precarious position by Irma. The roof repairs begin on November 13, so perhaps we will have everything squared away before Thanksgiving. Your ‘Osakazuki’ is breathtaking. I wouldn’t mind having one…and a few of those quiet days snuggling up with a book.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      It’s so sad to see the trees go. Here at least the ones which fell looked rather sickly. So perhaps it was just as well. Very unusual to have that strength of wind though.. 30 years since the last time! Hurricanes usually lose most of their strength crossing the cold seas to get here. I’m glad you’ll soon be sorted out. And that hurricane season is almost over!

  2. grammapenny October 31, 2017 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    i enjoyed the yummy pix of your garden.. our leaves are about done here in massachusetts too after the big rain and wind storm yesterday. i’m cleaning up and getting things ready for winter. we won’t have snowdrops until march or april.. its a long siege!

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      February is the peak of snowdrop season here. But as soon as those little green shoots poke up above the soil my spirits start to rise with them! You do have a long winter and much harsher than ours. But we can’t beat your fall colour!

  3. womanwalkingblog October 31, 2017 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    500 posts? Wow, that’s an achievement- congratulations. Love reading your blog. Ceri

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ceri. It’s about to feel like 500 too. As a result of changing the format of the blog I now have to go back and make amendments to each and every one of them. Oh well. What are long dark evenings for?

  4. Hannah October 31, 2017 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Long time no post, welcome back! Enchanters nightshade is a weed and a half, we too struggle with it here and the brambles, and creeping buttercup amongst others! It always amazes me how little there looks be when it’s in the ground and as soon as you dig it up the volume multiplies three fold! And then you have lug it miles away to a suitable place for burning. Ah well, it keeps us fit I guess. Beautiful photos as always. Glad to see the storms didn’t reign too much damage. X

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      I know, I know, I’ve been very lax.
      Enchanters Nightshade is a real menace. I can see that I will be digging it for years. It does get weaker though, over time. But only if you keep on top of it and don’t let it take back control. A classic example there of ‘Do What She Says and Not What She Does..’

  5. Sarah October 31, 2017 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your 500th post, it has been a pleasure watching your progress and hard work in your garden and home. You still have some wonderful autumn colour despite the storms blowing post of the leaves away. That acer is stunning and that cornus so bright. Thanks for joining me again in ‘Through the Garden Gate.’ Sarah x

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sarah. That cornus is incredible, especially with the sun on it. I only planted it this year yet already it is a beacon that can be seen from several spots around the garden. The leaves were deep crimson before they fell too.

  6. Kris P October 31, 2017 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your 500th post! Is it any comfort to hear that your autumn color is much more impressive than ours here in Southern California? While our area isn’t known for fall color, we usually get some but a continuous parade of heatwaves turned the leaves of most of the deciduous plants from green to brown. I can’t envy you all those leaves and other detritus, though – what a job! Luckily, our volume is manageable between the green bins emptied weekly by the community’s disposal service and our on-site compost heaps. There’s no burning of refuse permitted here, for good reason as the recent spate of fires show. We’re still tinder dry but there’s a chance for the first rain of the season this coming weekend, which I’m very much looking forward to.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      I do hope this winter provides you with plenty of rain, as the last one did. The fires have been bad enough to read about, I can only imagine how terrifying they must be to experience. I worry about having bonfires in the middle of a wood but, certainly at the moment, Mike is having real trouble getting them to stay alight. Everything is just so wet! Have they found that island yet.. the one half way between you and me, where the climate is perfect?

  7. Susan Garrett October 31, 2017 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    You can’t beat acres for autumn colour can you?

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      You certainly can’t. Osakazuki is good value because it takes so long to colour up and then, in normal circumstances, holds on to its leaves for a few days before they drop.

  8. Karen B. November 1, 2017 at 1:14 am - Reply

    Halloween! Perfect day for the mention of triffids! Congratulations!

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      Lol. No shortage of triffids here if you want any.. 🙂

  9. Torrington Tina November 1, 2017 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Not only have you had so much to tackle in the garden over the years, you have also managed 500 posts, what an achievement. Like you, we are contending with what has been an ‘interesting’ autumn, and we will be having some bonfires. I fully agree with Mike’s regime, get the base good and hot first, thus I am left to my pyromaniac tendencies and Mr TT supplies tea and sustenance as required! I love the variety of autumn colour that you still have, the cornus and acers are just beautiful. In between snuggling up with books over the winter perhaps a visit or two to Rosemoor might give us some ideas on what we can do to extend the season even further. That and a good cup of coffee!

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      Mike is definitely the pyromaniac here. I hope you’re having more luck than him at the moment though. Hot bases seem to be lacking. Lots of smoke but no fire. Perhaps we shouldn’t have piled up all the rubbish under the trees where the sun can’t get to it.
      Excellent idea re Rosemoor!

  10. surreycottage November 1, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Congratulations on your 500th post! We managed to get out into the garden over the weekend to cut down the Yellow Flag Iris in the pond and to clear some of the beech leaves from the water. The soil really has been claggy but on Monday, I did manage to clear a clump of unwanted and not-very-impressive crocosmia out of the long border and have resited a Smoke Bush and the little cherry (Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’) and planted it where the Smoke Bush had been.That poor little thing had been in its tub ever since Kevin bought it for me from Wisley as an anniversary present, many years ago. I’m volunteering with the National Trust at Lanhydrock House (room guide) now, and the gardens there are simply beautiful at the moment – never seen so many different shades of hydrangea and there is a camellia in full bloom! Great place to get inspiration. LOL.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’ is a lovely little tree and on my want list. It’s ages since we went to Lanhydrock and well overdue a return trip. Will look out for you. I remember seeing a stunning autumn flowering camellia there (or it could have been at Cotehele).. either way, another one for the list!

  11. Sam November 1, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

    500 posts plus all the hard work in your garden – hugely impressive. It’s fascinating to see how you’re slowly taking the land in hand and transforming the different areas. All looking pretty marvellous! That acer is gorgeous; sadly it’s too windy and exposed to grow one here.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Ah, but your view goes a long way to make up for the lack of an acer!
      Now that I’m starting to see some progress in the garden it is rewarding work. I’m working in two places where there is a visual link, and the physical barrier created by the weeds shorter with each day’s effort. If only I could achieve breakthrough before winter sets in!

  12. Anna November 1, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Oh many congratulations on that 500th post Jessica! It seems that the weather gods have been more cruel in your neck in the woods than up here in the north west. That acer is an absolute star. Hope that Mike has fun having bonfires. Now time for you for you to curl up indoors, keep snug and enjoy some reading. No doubt your notebook will soon be overflowing with wishes and thoughts.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      I thought the North West had had its fair share too. Such is our geography.
      There is just too much temptation when it comes to plants. I used to think there were few things that would grow in shade, but far from it. And I’ve certainly come to appreciate the delicate beauty of most of them.

  13. Chloris November 1, 2017 at 8:49 am - Reply

    Where did autumn go and where did you go? Nice to have you back. And congratulations on 500 posts. For autumn colour you can’t beat Acer Osakazuki, I remember admiring yours before. I have Cornus Baton Rouge too, what a brilliant red it is. We have to start bonfiring soon before the debris takes over the garden. It is the only job in the garden the Pianist enjoys. What is it this thing men have about playing with matches?

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      I haven’t been far. Sadly!
      It is the only job in the garden Mike enjoys too. Well apart from anything that involves a power tool. Odd isn’t it. Perhaps it transports them back to distant youth?

  14. Vera November 1, 2017 at 8:55 am - Reply

    We do not usually have an autumn here in SW France, just a very long late summer and then straight into early winter, but the weather this year has allowed us to have an autumn, which is a real treat for me. I do not miss much about the UK, but I do miss the long slow spring and autumn seasons. Here, spring and autumn are done very fast, but our winters are very short, and summer very long so I am not complaining! Lovely photos as usual!

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      Your climate sounds most hospitable indeed, apart from the short spring which is my favourite season. The general trend is for winters to get shorter here too, with spring and autumn getting even longer. This year has really been quite odd. I hope it doesn’t mean we’re in for a long winter. I couldn’t bear it.

  15. ginaferrari November 1, 2017 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Lovely to read even if you are not posting so often. I seem to fight a never ending battle with weed clearing in our modest little plot but then I know I don’t do it often enough.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      It’s so easy to let the weeds take over, especially if you have some of the really pernicious ones. I cleared a large area of the bank late summer and within days it seemed seeds were germinating all over it again. Next year will be the year of the hoe!

  16. Peter Herpst November 1, 2017 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    Thank goodness no trees fell on the cottage! Happy 500th post. I’m not fond of the cold dark months either but the business of the holidays helps a bit. You’ve done a lot of work and your incursion into the woodland is looking quite nice!

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks Peter. The clocks went back last weekend so the dark evenings are taking their toll this week. But at least weed growth should now slow down.. I might even get a head start!

  17. New Moons For Old November 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Both the blog and the bank look great. Gardening is so much more satisfying when you can really ‘see where you’ve been’. Here on the other side of the south we’ve been luckier with the weather, avoiding the high winds and enjoying some super colour. All the same, it’s hard to believe that October has gone and winter is definitely looking us in the face, now.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      With the Enchanters Nightshade swallowing up everything in its path (apart from the brambles!) I have little option but leave large bare patches in my wake. So I can certainly see where I’ve been! But it won’t take long to fill up again. Ferns sprout up everywhere around the garden so I can relocate some of those in Spring, along with any new acquisitions. Spring just seems such a long way off.

  18. Pauline November 1, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    Autumn is still here in East Devon! We seem to have missed the worst of both storms, no big branches down only a few little twigs and loads of leaves. Your Acer Osakazuki is gorgeous, mine is looking a little frazzled round the edges, but still putting on a good show of colour. Leaf sweeping will occupy me until Christmas, I imagine it will you too!

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      You’re right Pauline. Every new blow finds their hiding place and distributes them all around the garden again. I wouldn’t change it though, as we’ve both said before, having trees is a gift.

  19. Beth @ PlantPostings November 2, 2017 at 1:57 am - Reply

    500 posts–wow! Yes, the same thing happened to us: One week it was summer, and the next it was winter…with a few days of autumn in between. I like your spruce-up. I’ve been thinking about going with a wider format. Decisions, decisions…

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      The wider format seems more modern but it does have its drawbacks. I struggled with finding ways to have some bits wide and others not, to make the post content easier to read. I haven’t cracked the comments section yet.. it’s determined to be wide!

  20. germac4 November 2, 2017 at 10:09 am - Reply

    Lovely to see your autumn colour & well done on 500 posts! You could do a post on all you have learnt from IT help desks… There seems to be a never ending range of new things to learn & implement.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      Having worked in IT for a while I did learn that everything is made harder than it need be. They have a language of their own which acts as a barrier for the ordinary user like you and me. No doubt it serves a purpose. If only to ensure that we will always need Help Desks!

  21. derrickjknight November 2, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Congratulations on 500 excellent quality posts (At least from when I started following 🙂 )

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick. Obviously you joined at just the right time!

  22. Cathy November 2, 2017 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Gosh – that new woodland area looks like it will be scrumptious, Jessica. And you are working so very hard and making amazing progress! Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes complain about help desks – and other times they really come up trumps for us. (Whoah … that’s an outdated expression, since November 2016, isn’t it?)

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      Isn’t there a snowdrop called ‘Trumps’? It must have fallen off many a ‘must have’ list.

  23. Brian Skeys November 2, 2017 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    It never ceases to amaze me the amount of compost material a garden produces. In our garden, where we cannot have bonfires and my bins were always full, I have for two years now used the council recycling bins bringing back in the compost they produce. This has worked well, I realise that is not an option for you. Enjoy your autumn colour while it lasts.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      If I can keep on top of the regrowth composting will be the way forward for me, hence the purchase of the new bins. I’ve never had much luck though so more research and a proper effort next year. Monty makes it look so easy!

  24. pollymacleod November 2, 2017 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    500 posts and all that work, congratulations. I only have a medium garden but I fill the bin and often have to put excess in bags. The woodland looks beautiful and your Acer is stunning. On my walks with the dogs we pass an area of farm land which has a huge smoking bonfire all year round. I asked a neighbour (a real country chap, born and bred in the village) how it kept alight and he said the same thing about the core, once it reaches a certain temperature it just keeps going.

    • Jessica November 2, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      We’ve certainly managed to keep a bonfire going for several days, even with just garden waste. It does seem a waste though, I’d much rather compost it. All that organic matter is just what my horrible clay soil is crying out for.

  25. karen November 2, 2017 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on your 500th post. You have lots of glorious colour there. Acer ozakazuki is a favourite of mine. It’s a good reliable do-er. All the best. Karen

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 8:40 am - Reply

      Thanks Karen. I am going to have to sensitively trim back Osakazuki over the winter. It has done so well it is encroaching on the path!

  26. wherethejourneytakesme November 3, 2017 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica – good to hear from you – interesting about your composting as we end up having to take mounds to the local tip which is actually not so local in mileage as well as compost heaps as well and like you we have to resort to burning quite a bit and like you OH knows all the Scouting tricks for a good fire. I have not managed to roast a hedgehog yet luckily as we are vegetarian! I love pinky winky I would buy that just for the name – that is often how I choose my paint colours too! Do come back more often – we do miss you – love the new look it is nice to have a change.

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 8:47 am - Reply

      I’m hoping to be back more often now that the workload has decreased a little. Paint colour names do have a bearing don’t they. I’m not sure ‘Dead Salmon’ will ever make it on to my walls!

  27. Cathy November 3, 2017 at 11:06 am - Reply

    How exciting to have parts of the garden you have never set foot in (even if it does need a well-planned expedition to do so!) – discovering a part of our garden I have never seen before occasionally pops up in a dream… if only…! Your maintenance work in the garden is akin to the painting the Forth Rail Bridge although I have a faint recollection that there is some new technique which will make it a less frequent job abut this is unlikely ever to be the case with your garden! I wonder if you will stick to your ‘consolidation’ next year…. 😉

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

      Oh you know me too well Cathy. Maintenance is nowhere near as exciting as starting a new project is it? But I will try to limit my impulses, at least until the garden is back under control. You managed to keep up a plant buying embargo for a year, this is easy in comparison.
      I remember reading something similar about the Forth Rail Bridge, New type of paint?

  28. Linda from Each Little World November 3, 2017 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Nice to see what’s been happening. That clearing is very impressive. We also generate more garden debris than can be composted. But it is easier for us to take ours to the city drop off location when we have a truckload. I often end upon wheeling my bag in a wheelbarrow because I’ve made it too heavy. I am trying to use more caution so I don’t hurt myself and then can’t work in the garden.

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 9:02 am - Reply

      It’s all too easy to get an injury from gardening, don’t I know it! Far better to be cautious than have weeks out of it at a time.
      I hadn’t intended that the clearing be quite so clear, but the Enchanter’s Nightshade in particular had taken out pretty much everything else. It will recover though, such is nature. As long as it isn’t just more of the same!

  29. Colleen November 3, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I’m reconciled to the long dark now, but it took a while to come to terms with it. The colours locally this year have been absolutely wonderful, though not perhaps quite as spectacular as your lovely acer, Tractors are out in the park scooping away dead leaves and piling them up. I hope they’re making leaf mould with it. We’ve yet to have any serious cold here in London, in fact it has been warm, but our first frost is due this weekend. Thereafter, who knows.

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 9:07 am - Reply

      It dropped down almost to zero here last night. Probably time I dug up the tender plants! I’m not sure I can ever reconcile myself to the dark evenings but the cold is much worse.

  30. Brenda November 3, 2017 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    I love watching the transformation of your gardens. You have been busy! Our weather here has been crazy, with a no-name windstorm that uprooted trees and knocked out power for days to hundreds of thousands of homes, along with warm lingering September-like weather that belies the calendar.

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 9:10 am - Reply

      It’s been fairly mild here too. Up until last night which gave us a taste of winter nights to come. And this morning plumbers have arrived to rip out the central heating boiler. Oh wonderful.

  31. hb November 5, 2017 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Your blog’s new look is elegant and excellent, (as your posts always are) so I’d say the misery of the change was worth it to your readers. Your garden in early winter weariness reflects a wilder more natural world than the one most of us now live in. It is beautiful just as it is. Happy winter-planning–you use your time wisely.

    What is it with the wince-inducing cultivar names? Here a new rose introduction is “Pinkerbelle”. Oy!

    • Jessica November 6, 2017 at 9:19 am - Reply

      Thanks Hoov. The woodland edge will be a transition zone between the natural landscape and the more formal areas of the garden. ‘Pinkerbelle’ is beyond belief!

  32. homeslip November 14, 2017 at 9:37 am - Reply

    I miss my Osakazuki. It had been a first wedding anniversary present. Luckily for me he came up trumps with Acer Katsura for our 25th, and mid-November it’s still holding onto most of its leaves, as is the rest of the garden. In the woodland only the ash leaves are fully down and have already composted themselves into the ground while the beech and oak are glowing gold and falling slowly and very prettily. (So relieved we were not living in our 18th century cottage when the 1979 oil-fired boiler was replaced! Good luck with all that Jessica.)

    • Jessica November 15, 2017 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Beech and oak woods are looking glorious here too. Osakazuki excepted I’ve been disappointed with the acers this year though. For the most part they dropped all their leaves before there was any significant colour. Do you still have the cottage? I remember you were thinking about selling it.

I'd love to hear from you..