So, we are on the cusp of October and all my summer bedding is still in place, much of it looking here very much past its sell-by date, I have to say. I plead in my own defence that I have been away on thoroughly enjoyable holidays; I claim that I have had other overriding priorities and that I have not found enough hours in the day to do all the things which I should have done; I argue that advancing age is exacting a toll in my stamina and my physical ability to do anything like as much as I used to be able to do in any prescribed amount of time. (The alternative to growing older does not greatly appeal to me, it must be said.) But the squalid truth … as I have been forced to confess to myself … is that the spirit has taken to sharing the weakness of the flesh; in short, I have been rather lazy and have found it easier to make an excuse than to make any effort to catch up with my gardening responsibilities.
Of course, this has not prevented me from glancing through the occasional gardening book from my fairly extensive library. And a couple of the revered volumes which have attracted my recent attention are ‘In Your Garden’ by the English poet, novelist, and garden designer Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, CH, usually known as Vita Sackville-West; and ‘Wood and Garden’ by the British horticulturist, garden designer, craftswoman, photographer, writer and artist Gertrude Jekyll. She created over 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, and wrote over 1,000 articles for magazines such as ‘Country Life’ and William Robinson’s ‘The Garden’. The first-named book was first published by Michael Joseph in 1951; and the second-named first published by Longmans Green ‘way back in 1899. And it is from ‘Wood and Garden’ that I have selected this quotation for its relevance to the month of October.
“During the year I make careful note of any trees or shrubs that will be wanted, either to come from the nursery or to be transplanted within my own ground, so as to plant them as early as possible. Of the two extremes it is better to plant too early than too late. I would rather plant deciduous trees before the leaves are off than wait till after Christmas, but of all planting times the best is from the middle of October till the end of November; and the same time is the best for all hardy plants of large or moderate size.”
Well, I have no immediate plans to transplant trees within my own ground: but I do plan on replacing a couple of elderly shrubs which, frankly, have seen better days. Aye, plants which have grown elderly and reluctant to sparkle are condemned to meet an untimely end; as I shall be in deep trouble if John Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’ … the book in which an aggressive species of plant starts killing people … ever becomes reality! And my second October-related quotation is taken from ‘In Your Garden’. “Please plant Gentiana sino-ornata in a leaf-mould shady bed in your garden, with an inter-planting of Cyclamen europaeum. The same conditions will suit them both. The gentian may cost you up to 16s. 6d. a dozen (that’s about 83p today); but even half a dozen will give you as many plants as you will need in a year’s time; and as for the cyclamen, its brown bun of a corm seems immortal, with a rich progeny of seedlings coming up all over the place.” And even if I don’t even think of planting gentian, I have considered planting cyclamen in past years and, you never know, I might just get around to doing it this year. The prospect of lots of free seedlings … which are not weeds … coming up ‘all over the place’ is very tempting in this age of prices for plants which Miss Sackville-West could never have imagined!