It’s that time of year when eight legged under gardeners spread their hawsers across important access paths. They carefully string their webs at nose height; if you walk into a cable, you place your face in danger from the wire like filament and risk an irritated occupant at close quarters, full of spleen. I squelched antipathy towards arachnids long ago, when I started gardening professionally. I used to stroke the largest examples when they appeared in the bath, to demonstrate their harmless nature to my children. Now the first nibble of autumn air brings a fascination with the plump patterned bodies lurking without motion, parcelling up a wasp or draining the catch dry. That is until I crash through one of their guy ropes at speed and get draped in spider silk and half eaten breakfast.
Flies still invade the house, if the back door is left open. They dive bomb computer nerds intent on electronic destruction, upsetting concentration. They seem immune to the blandishments of the Nepenthes (pitcher plant) in the kitchen and are indifferent to insecticide. Attila lost a game of noisy carnage due to the importuning of a particularly fat bluebottle. He got so excited, I could hear his pulse rattle from outside. He says that he wants a can of propane and a box of matches to make his own mobile flame thrower, wishing to watch the uninvited guest crash and burn. Well, that will be his karma kippered. I have learned to keep my big mouth shut when shearing a hedge above head height. Since becoming mostly vegetarian, I am even less inclined to consume anything with legs. I delight in watching my spouse career about in full-on arm flapping exterminator mode with the eerie quiet calm of a monk on morphine.
Cyclamen hederifolium (ivy leaved cyclamen)
In late September I get the sense that the garden is winding its neck in. Foliage is beginning to crisp at the edges preparatory to pulling on fall glory, which is when profound poetry sets in. Cyclamen are sparkling in the borders and although the Dahlias are still going strong, the first frost which spells their long sleep, is not far away. I find myself making familiar calculations as to how long I can leave tender scented leaf Pelargoniums (geraniums) to bask, before dragging them undercover and making the conservatory a crowded place.
Vitis purpurea (purple leaved grape vine)
The weeds remain a constant presence but I feel that their heart is no longer in the job. I’m still digging out the dock, ground elder and nettles, whilst acknowledging through gritted teeth that they will probably be back next year. Their corpses, stripped of seeds and such roots as I can reach, go onto the refuse heap, since compost is the groundswell of the whole performance. I crawl around the soil, grubbing out spurge seedlings and leaving the earth raked, neat, soft and smooth. The cat follows along behind, flinging herself at the bed like a teenaged bride. I shall ignore her presents and leave them as gifts for the worms.