Sandy's Garden ... Autumn Leaves and Other Chores

Trying to keep my garden neat and tidy at this time of year presents even more problems than usual.

By Herald Reporter
Monday, 2nd November 2020, 3:10 pm

There are a lot of trees near my home, the vast majority of them deciduous. The vast majority of them are also mature and, until recently, they were in full leaf. I have been enjoying their colour-changing routine, watching the many shades of green give way to an equal number of shades of yellow and gold, with the occasional red and the odd brown thrown in for good measure.

But then along came the wind! Exactly as nature intended, this wind broke the leaves deliberately-weakened attachment to the trees, stripping the branches of their foliage to reduce the amount of winter snow that might accumulate on them as well as reducing to a minimum their resistance to the well-nigh inevitable gales of winter.

In a few words, the trees are preparing for the winter by reversing what the animal kingdom does; as the creatures of the wild deploy their thicker winter coats to combat the cold, the trees strip down to minimise the potential damage done to them by storms and tempests.

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

A disproportionate amount of those leaves seemed to end up in my garden! There are places where I can wade through them, deep layers of gradually-browning material revealing the locations of the most sheltered spots in the garden, areas where the winds from every direction of the compass are reduced to gentle, aimless swirls, ideal dropping points for their loads of dying foliage. The winds are like rubbish collection vehicles, hastening off to fetch another load of debris as fast as I can clear up.

Why can’t they convey the leaves directly to recycling facilities instead of insisting that I act as an intermediary transport provider? Ah well, I suppose that if I wish to enjoy the upside … the glorious autumnal foliage displays … I must be prepared to deal with the downside … the discarded detritus … in the same way in which people should clean up the debris after their Guy Fawkes bonfires and fireworks.

If we follow government advice, these should be few and far between this year. Strictly, there should be none, although I expect that I shall still have some scorched rocket sticks to add to my tidying chores.

It will be nice to have a reduction in these impositions rather than the recent unlooked-for extra work which has come my way. Last week, an entire colony of blackbirds descended on my garden, grubbing their devastating way along the borders of every path and plant bed, chucking decorative bark everywhere in what seemed to be a fruitless quest for bugs.

I didn’t know that blackbirds had any migratory tendencies: but sometimes there were upwards of ten in the garden simultaneously; and they have since gone as surprisingly as they came, leaving their mess behind them. Then a pair of magpies decided that the spaces between the stone slabs of my patio were in need of being thoroughly cleaned out. And by Jove, were they thorough! Moss, liverwort and muck was strewn everywhere within chucking distance.

But the prize for the unexpected untidying of my garden goes to a mature dog which is new to the neighbourhood. Excitedly exploring his new territory on a longish lead, he decided to investigate a stand of heavy, recently-replanted pots within easy access of the pavement of the open-plan estate where I live. I don’t mind – a lot of dogs have done the same before they have learned the rules of open-plan estates.

Unfortunately, Pluto chose to return to the pavement by way of the opposite side of a couple of the pots to that by which he had arrived. Pluto’s mistress had a good grip on one end of the lead, Pluto bounded towards her securely attached to the other end – and the fast-tightening lead swept a couple of the pots over, comprehensively emptying them.

My thanks to Pluto’s mistress for ringing the doorbell to explain what had happened and for offering to tidy up. But she couldn’t have anticipated Pluto’s action; he was being naturally curious; and accidents happen. That’s life!