A splash of colour …

… anywhere in the garden is such a welcome sight right now. All my bravado through the spring and summer over the amount of colour we have, comes crashing down when autumn arrives as flower after flower begins to fade and die. So few remain. But they are there and the geranium Rozanne, planted earlier in the year has grown well, establishing strong roots and now creeping so beautifully entwining itself throughout the borders. Flowers looking fresh and alive even through the torrential rain and buffeting winds.

Heleborus Niger is another winter favourite. Commonly known as the Christmas Rose, its pure white flowers already opening, but will remain until well after Christmas.

Poor sunlight and shorter days work against many flowers, but if we look hard, and often underneath the evergreen leaves from those plants with evergreen foliage, the secret garden of winter colour can still be be found.

Oriental grasses, in our case this Pennisetum – Red Head is now fading. The purple feathery flowers which have been with us for some time, and the leaves are all fading. It is deciduous and eventually it will be cut down, but I will leave them as features as long as they remain architecturally striking with frosts and snow covering them. Sadly we do get a lot of rain and when the dead leaves become sodden and limp, they look far better cut back in readiness for next years growth.

Another day raking up fallen leaves. A job which I need to do to ensure the lawns are free from damaging sodden leaves that will just create die back if left. Those fallen on the borders are less of an issue as they will rot down and improve the soil but I need to ensure that any which lie there are not restricting light or air from early flowering bulbs and flowers which may suffer if left. Even here it is better to clear the leaves and reintroduce them to the boarder as well composted mulch and placed around the plants.

White Rabbit …

Tradition holds that the first words you should speak at the start of a new month is, “white rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit” Do this, and you will have good luck and fortune all month. Or so they say. Of uncertain origins, it is felt that it is linked to farming as farmers will use it for a good harvest.

We always try and remember to do this, but more often than not, we forget! Instead, we do try to maintain a positive outlook throughout each month and eagerly look for opportunities for excitement and adventure. Those little things that will bring a smile to a troubled face and we can say to ourselves, ‘That’ll do’

Today’s garden has been a washout. Torrential rain throughout and howling winds. Leaves are falling all over in varying shades of yellow and brown. Two days of dry weather is all I need to get out with the lawn rake and collect them all. In truth, I need to do this daily now until all the leaves currently on the deciduous trees have fallen. Easier said than done, but I stand ready for that break in the weather.

There are gardeners who would complain at falling leaves and the clearing up they need but in our case, we use this natural event to help find those smiles. When it’s dry, I will get outdoors into the garden with our son, looking up into the sky I will push him round in his wheel chair and try and catch each one as they fall over us, When we can’t move around, we just sit and let them fall on us. The big ones, the little ones, the yellow, the brown, even those which are still green, stuffing them all into bags to turn into leaf mould and use to mulch and feed the following years soil.

Even when it rains and we cant get out, we can look outside through our sons favourite windows and watch them falling. Looking out across the decking we can focus our sons mind away from his torment and count the number of different coloured leaves that lie all around. Even the raindrops running down the window can bring a smile as we follow each one as they run down the window. We create races with them and we run our fingers along the path they take.

November heralds the start of Advent on 28th and our plans also move towards Christmas. A challenging time due to all the changes in our sons routine. In future posts I’ll explain how we ensure he enjoys the surprises of the festivities, rather than fearing them as many people who have autism do. I will also explain how Christmas Carols and the church service also help create a calmness in his mind and a peace in his heart.

White Rabbit? It’s a bit of fun, but the understanding and awareness of family love creates all the luck and fortune we need.

As the clocks go back …

Saturday night, or the early hours of Sunday morning on 30th – 31st October, in the UK we turn our clocks back one hour.

I’m not sure why, but I always recall the short poem “Time marches on, but falls back” when I recall which way to turn the clock. Of course, the UK has stopped using the term ‘Fall’ replacing it with ‘Autumn’ – but that doesn’t work for the poem to flow!

It’s raining again outside. Broken now and then by some sunlight, but the weather fronts have been bringing torrential rain across the country.

I think back almost two years now to October 2019 and recall how we were all completely oblivious to the pandemic that was about to hit the world. We fell unwell at the beginning of 2020. COVID-19 was still an unspoken of virus, but we believe we had been struck by it. Myself and my wife were seriously unwell for a couple of weeks and our son was affected for nearer six weeks. Only when we had recovered we began to hear of COVID-19. To date, we have lost five family members to this awful virus and as I write this article, three family members are battling the virus, even after being double jabbed.

Throughout 2020 and 2021 we have shielded ourselves as best we could to protect our son who is considered vulnerable. We have all be vaccinated and awaiting our booster jab, sometime – we hope – in November. Flu jabs are scheduled in the next week and we continue to wear face masks when outside.

I’m sure nobody has really understood the impact of lockdown and isolation on many people and the consequences will be realised over the months and even years to come. Our son has amongst other conditions, autism. You may know already that a person with autism will likely need routine and a strict repetitive schedule to follow to allow them to understand and process their way through each day.

At the beginning of 2020 when the first national lockdown was announced, I thought it would not be too bad for our son as he spends a lot of time at home engaged with his regular activities anyway. I had not realised the impact of not going for a small shopping trip with me to the local supermarket. One shopper per trolley was the order. Shops became a focus of infection and so I reduced my shopping trips to once a week only to minimise the risk of infection. Then there was a regular cup of coffee at the local garden centre, now closed. These seemingly little trips were in fact a key part of our sons routine.

We tried to help our son to understand why the sudden changes and using all the techniques and interventions we have learned over the years we had reached a point where that part of his routine had been forgotten, and replaced with something new. Not least, working with me in the garden.

As lockdowns have now eased, and restrictions to our liberty not as stringent as they once were, the reverse of the problems our son had understanding he could not do something as he was able to reengage with the world again. Fear of going outdoors is very real. It’s not just the going out, but the visiting a supermarket or garden centre once again are scary trips for him and as face coverings are still required, our sons apprehension is very real. He prefers to remain isolated and in his words ‘safe’.

In time we will encourage him to do these things with confidence, but it can’t be rushed. The pandemic is certainly not yet over either. There is still a possibility that some degree of restriction could be put back in place. we keep this in mind as we encourage our son as to have all our plans stopped once again will cause significant confusion and anxiety.

We may one day learn to live more safely with this COVID-19 virus as we do with the annual FLU and common cold viruses, but the fall out from the pandemic will last for many years while fragile minds such as our sons gradually, very gradually learn to deal with the changes imposed upon them.

As clocks go back by one hour, I wonder how it would be if we could turn them back two years with all we know now.

If I can offer a thought for you and that is that you, yourself, or a family member, friend or neighbour may be struggling in the same way our son is. Reach out and ask for help if you need to, or reach out offering help to those who do, even if you are ok. A friendly voice may be something that is needed by many right now.