In extra time Posted on November 4, 2014

Lilies by Waitrose

There was a head-spinning moment last night (still balmy in November) when I opened the French windows from my tiny library to the verandah. I was caught between the sultry smell of lilies and the sharp scent of lemon-blossom. They mingled in the doorway, a whole Arabian Nights of exotic perfume, forcing fantasies into my brain. What, by the way, are the über-lilies that Waitrose sells these days? They last two weeks in water, twice as long as usual, and open their pale pink cartwheels of flowers six inches wide.

But the whole season has been surreal. Shirt-sleeves on a November night: what do plants make of it? My camera is full of anomalies: yellow bearded irises go rather well with the startling violet berries of a Callicarpa; not a combination you’d see in a flower show, I suspect. The only thing to do in the garden, while watching the slow-motion decay of salvias and verbenas, geraniums and anemones, is raking leaves. With no frosty nights, and very little wind, they are hanging on, crisp and brown, on our tall sycamore. When one breaks loose it falls importantly, self-consciously it seems, choosing a spot to catch in a branch or hit the paving with a smack.

November seems a long time to wait for a ripe tomato, but in the half-light of our greenhouse they have only just reached their proper sweetness. Gardener’s Delight is the only one I shall give room to next year. Pelargoniums stopped flowering a month ago: Salvia van Houttei is now the bright attraction, reaching long lax scarlet-tipped branches into the roof.

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