The watershed Posted on September 3, 2008

Cyclamen in August feel premature to me; an unwelcome hint that summer is coming to an end. Their miniature brilliance suddenly appearing in the dustiest parts of the garden is always a surprise. It was a disappointing high summer – not high at all, in fact. But not well-watered either, here: an inch and a half of rain was all August brought us, while the rest of the country sploshed about disconsolate. It was not cold, but warmth is not much use without radiation, and you scarcely ever felt the direct rays of the sun.

The spiders celebrated September 1st with a cobweb festival, spangled with what seemed a double dose of dew. Seldom is there such an unmistakable gear shift; I swear leaves have tilted differently, reflect light differently, their chloroplyll less vibrant as their energy ebbs back into their organs of survival. Fruit takes primacy: suddenly spindle dangles fruit I hadn’t noticed, rowans are orchard trees, climbing roses fertile as vines and vines heavy with harvest.

There will be backward glances: days when the grass is warm underfoot and the shadows strong. But when michaelmas daisies break cover, chrysanthemums push up their buds, sedums show tips of colour and tall salvias sway above box hedges we are far past the watershed. They’ll be telling us soon how many shopping days to Christmas.

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A completely new edition published by the Academie du Vin Library: When first published in 1989 The Story of Wine won every…

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