It is near winter at the summerhouse. Toadstools carpet the grass, some in clumps like fairy homes, others tall and on their own, white like ghosts. The climbing rose is still flowering, a delicate pink and strongly scented. Flocks of birds flit through the rowan, all agitated feeding. Soon they and the red berries will be gone. We have stocked up on sacks of sunflower seed for the residents.
Strong winds shake the trees, swirling leaves colour the grass. Soon the oaks and beech will be stripped of leaf, our neighbours exposed. Bo, the tree surgeon, is here to advise on the dead silver birch and the broken branches on the oak. Last year’s endless summer is still taking its toll. The oaks overheated, threw out hundreds of acorns. He advises cutting back the crown, points out the long-term damage. We will wait on any work until spring, but take a closer look when all the trees are bare.
There is pruning to be done, mostly cutting back the currant bushes. My mother-in-law has made her brilliant jam from the summer’s blackcurrants. We will eke it out over the winter. The redcurrants we leave for the birds, there for joy and colour. Marauding bramble is creeping in on the edges. It will need cutting back; some we will try to pull up.
The main gardening job is planting bulbs for spring. This year, we are adding two new species tulip, both in variations of red: Lizzy and Schrenkii – hoping to colonise more corners. They will flower in April, though they may take a year or two to settle.
We scatter a few clumps of May-flowering bulbs, tall yellows, orange and deep red (First Proud, Red Proud, Rhapsody of Smiles, all from Bloms Bulbs). We will have to wait and see how many survive the visiting deer and hare. It is their space as much as ours.
Allan Jenkins’s Morning (4th Estate, £8.99) is out now. Order it for £7.91 from guardianbookshop.com