Very interesting blog from a transgender woman. I have come to believe that ‘3rd wave feminists’ such as those who are no platforming Germaine Greer are just eegits really. I firmly accept that some people feel body dysmorphia, uncomfortable with who and what they are and would like to identify or ‘pass’ for the other sex. I have no problem with anyone doing so. I believe in live and let live, so long as you don’t involve, or hurt childrena animals. I just don’t get the ‘I feel like a woman, therefore I am a women’ school of thought – how? What does a woman ‘feel’ like? how would one know? Clearly this line of thinking’s logical conclusion is an acceptance that females are mentally different, i.e. have different brains – ‘I hate maths, cars and rugby, ergo I have a female, girly brain’ – which is what feminists have been trying to get away from and disprove. We women can do anything we want, we are not different, more stupid or incapable of anything. We are no longer hobbled by physical weakness or fertility and we can, and should be able to to do anything and have the same opportunities as men. That is what we ask. A man who wears dresses, even if he has his dick removed and takes hormones has no idea of what it is to be born, raised and educated as a woman. I also find it deepy disturbing and worrying that young children are being treated and medically interfered with. I have a very feminine and happy to be female family member who as a child cried if put in a dress, had short hair, played with boys and boys toys and would only answer to a boy’s name. It was accepted that this was ‘tomboy’ behaviour and that was it. I also wonder how many men are truly accepting of female to male trans as true men. I see nothing wrong with deciding to be trans, each to their own, but I don’t really think trans women are women. Now shoot me and start throwing the rotten fruit.
Autumn is a great time to make plans for next year. Take a good, long, hard look at the garden and be your harshest critic. Think what you have got wrong and be ruthless – whatever didn’t perform this year take out and either donate to a friend or pot up and give to your nearest charity shop or jumble sale. When plants don’t perform it means that they are unhappy in their surroundings. That is why it is important to read a bit about where they originate. A plant that is native to woodlands is not going to do well in a sandy garden on a windswept hillside by the sea, likewise a plant that is native to the Spanish mountains will not thrive if plant in a soggy bog garden. If you haven’t figured out what kind of soil you have do so now. Broadly speaking you will have sandy, clay or loamy soil. Clay soil is heavy and frequently waterlogged. This soil benefits from the addition of gritty material to improve drainage but is generally very fertile. You will find keeping Mediterranean or alpine plants tricky. A sandy soil is very light and free-draining, so you will need to add lots of organic material to improve fertility, and you will be best going for drought tolerant and seaside plants. A loamy soil is the perfect growing medium, and if you have it, you are very lucky and grow almost anything. Soil Ph. is the other major consideration when planning what to plant in your garden. You can buy Ph. soil testing kits in all garden centres and if you have an acid soil, lime lovers are out. Go instead for all those plants many of us would love to grow but can’t without a lot of faff and bother and importation of copious amounts of ericaceous compost – Rhododendrons, azaleas, blue hydrangea and go for a lovely Robinsonian wild garden look. If you have an alkaline or limey soil, it tends to be chalky and needs plants that will not just tolerate but thrive in such conditions. Limey soils are perfect for creating wildflower meadows and will take lots of drought tolerant species and are suitable for Mediterranean style gardens. Last of all consider the shape of your beds and your hard landscaping. Avoid curvy beds and go instead for a sharp formal layout. You can soften hard edges with plant material, but a strong series of straight lines gives a better framework to work from.
September and October truly are the very last gasp to be sucked from the fag-end of summer. It is as if the herbaceous plants know that their number is up and they put their last energies into a final terrific show. Dahlias and Asters are the stars of the season, along with Sedum, Rudbeckia, Echinacea and other early-flowering plants which, if cut back immediately after flowering, will give a second flush now. To keep the garden looking its best and to avoid that dried out, worn out, dusty appearance keep deadheading and staking.
As the nights become shorter and colder it is time to think about bringing in tender plants, certainly don’t risk leaving them out in October as there can be surprise hard frosts around Hallow’een time. Visiting gardens is a great way to learn new tricks and get tips. This summer I got a great lesson from Josie Murphy on how to keep those summer stalwarts, pelargoniums (called, erroneously geraniums,) going from year to year. Many people just throw them out or allow them to take their chances with the frost as they have no greenhouse or cold frame, whereupon the generally turn black and rot. I generally try and bring a few indoors where they sit looking untidy and miserable on the windowsill. Josie, who has a really spectacular display, says she just puts them in the shed in autumn. She really does; she puts them into the semi-dark shed, allows them to dry out and ignores them until spring. She tells me that she then takes the plants out and sits the pots in buckets of water laced with plant food and once they are fully soaked she leaves them in a sunny spot to come on again. I am determined to try this as I don’t see why it shouldn’t work as I have had great success doing exactly the same thing with spring flowering cyclamen. Once the plants have finished flowering I leave them to dry out, in their pots and chuck them in an out of the way shady spot in the garden. After Christmas I pop them into window boxes and feed and water them and they generally flower really well.
Another tip I got on my visit was from Josie’s husband Brian, who has pipes attached to all the gutters around the roof. Some pipes feed water butts, which is something we should all be doing now we are faced with water charges (and it is very green). The thing that really impressed me is that Brian has rigged up one pipe which is used to feed a pond. When rain is very heavy the pond overflows into another pond below it, and then another, creating a lovely cascade, aerating the water and eventually overflowing into a small man-made stream which runs to the bottom of the garden. No pumps or fancy gizmos are necessary, just some flexible plastic piping and ingenuity.
Spare a thought for poor John Keats – how could he have foreseen, when writing his Ode to Autumn that his line, which he probably felt quite chuffed about when he came up with it, about it being the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness would become a tooth-aching cliché to be trotted out annually by lazy journalists and dullards the world over. This year I am seeing less mist and mellow fruitfulness and more sunshine (yay!) and disgraceful messiness. I don’t know what it is with me – every year I spend January in a state of frenzied anticipation and excitement, fussing over early hellebore and photographing every new bloom. Spring is my favourite time of year in the garden, a triumph of hope and expectation over years of bitter experience. By early summer I am still gung ho and thrilled by each new emergent crown and bud but by August I am bored – bored, or bawd, bawd, bawd as Adrien in the Young Ones would say. Either the weather has been such a washout that it has put me in a terminal huff, or the weather so good that I have been idling by the sea, but the gloss somehow goes off the garden and my interest wanes. This is fatal as a couple of weeks of neglect in late summer means a hellish autumn clear up. I can honestly say that I have never, ever seen such enormous weedy euphorbia in the garden as this year, and each herbaceous plant I cut back reveals a mass of couch grass and other weeds, not to mention slugs and snails, making themselves at home around the base of the poor benighted plant. The plus side to the chaos is that my interest in the garden is always re-ignited at this time – I am full of plans again and keen to put manners on nature, plant bulbs, re-do the window boxes and make a literal clean sweep of the place.
I shall be doing some of the following and you might like to too:
- Give shrubs a light autumn prune
- Plant up autumn window boxes to last until Christmas. Try using evergreen perennials like heuchera, which now come in a huge range of colours from deepest plummy black to garish orange and yellow. Some that I wouldn’t let near a bed look amazing in containers. Mix with ornamental cabbages for a funky display.
- Buy bulbs as soon as possible to avoid disappointment – I completely forgot last year and when I went looking all I could find were a few really awful dwarf varieties of tulips and some soft, soggy rotten bulbs that were no use to anyone.
- Divide herbaceous perennials. Throw out the old, worn-out centres of plants and create fresh ones from the outer, newer growth. If you can’t use or don’t want any divisions, wrap them in damp newspaper and give them away to friends; put a notice up on social media and I guarantee you shall find homes for all.
- Collect and sow seed from perennials and hardy annuals. Store in plain brown paper envelopes and remember to label! Keep your seeds in an old biscuit tin or similar dry place.
- Cover ponds with netting if under or close to deciduous trees to avoid them getting clogged up and becoming stagnant.
- Clean out and disinfect cold frames and greenhouses so that they are ready for use in the autumn
- Start to plant spring flowering bulbs – leave tulips ‘til November or even December.
- Clear up fallen autumn leaves regularly and collect to make lovely leaf mould.
- Cut back perennials that have died down.
- Move tender plants, including aquatic ones, into the greenhouse.
- Prune climbing roses – be very firm, I was far too timid with my pruning for far too long and the resulting ugly, thorny mess was very difficult to fix.
- Order seeds for next year.
- Give lawns a last mow, patch up bald spots with turf and if the weather is warm enough, do one last spot zap of lawn weeds.