Somehow you can smell that she is on her way. The temperature at RHS Garden Harlow Carr was 10ºC (50ºF) and there was a gentle switch in the ‘feel of the morning’. It is always a pleasant time for me: the heat has gone and you’re left with a good working temperature and the pace seems less frenzied. The bonfire that we had started a few weeks ago to rid ourselves of some brambles was still smouldering, gently reminding me of particularly strong cough sweets or coal tar soap, and added to the autumn scents.
We walk the woodland every morning, checking the children’s play equipment for health and safety. There is no one else about (apart from the squirrels scarpering from whatever damage they’ve been up to in the garden when there is no one about). It’s a lovely time to study the trees and watch as some of them already are changing colour; the Sorbus are berrying up and the cotoneasters are forming tiny ones for winter too. It struck me what a good value small tree the Sorbus is; they have the most delicious frothy blossom in spring followed by a great range of berries: some orange, some white, some white fading to blushes of pink.
Even our native mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) has berries which are the most decent of reds. They can cheer up a winter day as they hold onto them long after the leaves have gone and provide good food for birds. Along the streamside and the learning centre beds the Euonymus are in no doubt where they sit in the seasonal scale - they are already the deepest of crimson and look gorgeous against the bright green of the sarcococca in front of it.
Elsewhere in the garden, the Betty's shelter is coming on a treat; the main central post is a good 3½m (12ft) tall and has been made from one of our own oaks that had to be felled earlier, so it is fantastic that it has come back full circle into the garden with a solid and stately job to do.