Harvesting Oddities

As I celebrated the autumn equinox this week, I was reflecting on what a strange growing year it has been. Alternating wet and dry, most fruit has done very well and so have lettuces. The peas were okay, the climbing beans are finally getting going after a very slow start, but courgettes, sweetcorn, tomatoes sulked in the cold, and brassicas seemed to get eaten by everything. So I let the nasturtiums run wild and fill all the spaces – they look pretty and have the bonus of being edible by me as well as a favourite of caterpillars, blackfly, etc.

In a spirit of celebrating all life, no matter what form it comes in, here is my harvest of oddities I have spotted this month.

Double Victoria Plum

Double Hazelnut

Twins – most common on my raspberries, one stem threw out several early on, but something I’ve not seen before is a double plum or a double hazelnut, from a wild tree nearby. The plum had two misshapened stones, like a raspberry with two stalks, the hazelnut hasn’t been opened yet.

Confused Sweetcorn ‘Incredible’ (Click to enlarge)

Sweetcorn has male flowers at the top, and females lower down where the cobs form. This happened last year on a larger stalk but I didn’t get a picture, and now I’m seeing it again on this stunted specimen.

Fasciated Lettuce Heart

Fasciation (a flattened stem) is something I have seen occasionally in foxgloves or purple loosestrife, but this year I found it in my lettuces. They look normal before being picked, but the stem is oval instead of circular and while leaves at the edges (the curved sections) are normal, the many central leaves (on the flattened sections) are narrow with no side branches.

Lupin Leaf-flower tower

And finally, a lupin stem that has forgotten to flower and instead created a pyramid of leaves.

Rain

Welsh poppy, Papaver cambrica, in the rain

Welsh poppy, Papaver cambrica, in the rain

Today it has been raining hard, for the first time in over a month. The sky is grey, the hills are obscured by cloud, and everything is wet. I am cocooned in my warm house, feeling cosy as I watch rivulets running down the windows.

I am intrigued at the various reactions I display to rain, even over the space of half an hour of watching it. There is my initial, slightly disappointed feeling of it’s cold and wet, the sun isn’t shining like it has so often recently. Then there is the enjoyment of all the greens in the garden, the awareness of the plants and the soil soaking up the wetness with relief and I realise again just how little they have had recently. Finally I watch the spray, hear the sound of raindrops, and think about how nice it was listening to rain in a tent or under a shelter, rather than from inside brick walls. A trip outside in the garden reminds me I rather like rain, it is only the attitudes of others colouring my views. Heavy rain can be exciting to watch, and provided I’m not going to be in cold wet clothes all day, even more exhilarating to be out in. Gentle rain brings me closer to nature. I feel part of things, alive, refreshed, cleansed.

I have a whole tray of lupin seedlings on my windowsill, to fill in the gaps in the flowerbeds where I have been weeding. I used to grow them, but they have gradually disappeared while untended as the spot was too shady. I may start a rain-plant area, as they look so stunning catching water droplets in their leaves. Other favourites for rain include alchemillas with their furry leaves turning water drops to quicksilver, and Dicentra spectabile with raindrops hanging from each flower. Bulbs like tulips just close their petals for protection, and then carry on as before. Peony leaves sparkle, although their flowers are less able to cope. But the unexpected star of the show is for me Solomon’s seal, its graceful, arching stems being as fluid as the water itself.