I realise that it is months since I reported on the goings on around the heath and in the cemeteries – so here we go with a quick round up. And while the weeds with which we battled throughout the spring are always with us, I am happy to say that we have now largely moved on to the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Here is Terry tidying up some of the espaliered apples in the Hill Garden kitchen garden.
Happily for those of us who like nothing better than wielding a secateurs or a long lopper there has been a good deal of pruning to be done in the Hill Garden, both to reduce the size of the more enthusiastic occupants of the beds and to take out the dead wood from some of the mature shrubs and small trees which had suffered in the summer’s extreme heat. Sadly I failed to take before and after images of a pieris on which we performed radical surgery (nearly half of it had succumbed to the heatwave) but here is Alan trying to rescue this shrub whose name I still do not remember but which looked very sad.
Rather most positively, the week before Margaret and had I got to work on a viburnum which seemed to have been little bothered by the heat and which had all but taken over the path that it bordered. Margaret did a fine job of keeping some shape on the path side while I brought its rear end under control.
The Butterfly House
Then last week we were down by the Butterfly House….
…which sadly is no longer a butterfly house. Even though it still looks like a (slightly overgrown) miniature tropical house, the butterflies are all gone and there seems little chance that they will return. All other considerations aside, the cost of heating the house in these days of astronomical energy prices make a return of the butterflies very unlikely.
However, this has allowed Rory to move in and commandeer the area. It had been a wildlife garden but has been taken over by brambles and grass choking the less virile wildlife flowers that he wants to cultivate. So bring on the bramble bashers!
And finally, a few weeks ago we were invited into the zoo, into the field where the donkeys and the wallabies live.
On this occasion were were there to attack the nettles and the ragwort. The latter is poisonous to donkeys (and I think to wallabies). Although both are wise enough to give it a clear berth, unless checked it would win the battle with the grass and their field would be overrun. The donkeys were quite interested in our activities – indeed they reckoned that we were hiding something especially tasty in our collection bags – but the wallabies who are quite shy creatures, did not really much like us invading their territory.
However, getting into their field was a bit like entering Cell Block H. Because the zoo keepers cannot risk (for the animals’ safety and that of the park visitors) the animals getting out of their enclosure, there is a double entry system. First the zoo keeper unlocks the outer gate into the ‘cage’. Then we are all herded inside while that gate is locked before the inner gate can be unlocked to let us into the field.
For one reason and another my visits to the cemeteries have been less frequent over the last few months – but on a lovely sunny day last week I joined my fellow volunteers right down at the south end of the East cemetery, by the road – an area which, as head gardener Frank said, tends to get sadly overlooked. They had just strimmed it so we were set to remove all the saplings that had grown through the graves as well as the inevitable invading brambles.
However, in the process we uncovered one of Highgate’s many curiosities. Although he is obviously not buried here, this gravestone commemorates a member of the family who died on the Titanic. However, it appears that there was not actually enough room on the tombstone for him.
And just to prove that autumn is really here, the funghi are in full march across both the heath and the cemeteries. These are just two of the many I have seen.