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Blog posts of '2015' 'November'

I don't care what the weatherman says

Us Brits love the weather. We use it as a form of ritual, the acceptable small talk at dinner parties when the food is a tad unpalatable. In my opinion, this year has been an interesting one, never quite warming up before descending into the current gloom once again. As we are now fully into the late Autumn conveyor belt of storms and rain, can I be bold and offer you a small glimpse of my memories in the art of bad weather forecasting?

Once, whilst living in deepest darkest Norfolk, I returned home from planting 3,000 trees to a warm fire, a hearty meal and the television weather report. As I sat there, getting the life back into my toes (this was the days before I had bought Town and Country boot warmers), the meteorologist announced the evening would be fine and fair. As I had spent the entire day toiling in heavy rain I was somewhat surprised by the news. To be honest she looked abashed by the statement and as I lived not twenty miles from the studio I can confirm the weather was anything but fine and fair. One cannot blame the poor girl of course, she was just doing what the computer told her - you see the modern super computer cannot lie.  The moral here is I suppose, ignoring your own experience and instead relying on what others insist is true prediction, leads you on a merry farce. As a result of that one incident (I like to think my complaint was key), the BBC has created a new website, just so that we, the humble invisibles can report our own findings. So, with that in mind would you like to be part of history? You can be. Go to 'BBC Weather Watchers' - http://www.bbc.co.uk/weatherwatchers. An interactive website of some merit  it relies not only on a computer, but  on crowd-sourced information, making the weather reports that much more accurate. Wonderful. Now you and I can take photos, write reports and generally cause merry havoc at the BBC without leaving the fire-side armchair. What is more if you really want to get truly involved, then Town and Country has the ultimate collection of weather watching equipment. All you have to do is go to the products page on this very website. Click on the 'Clocks and Weather Stations' link and you can be your very own Francis Beaufort. Buy your Royal Meteorological Society Weather Watchers Logbook  from Amazon, perhaps download a radar app to your phone and hey presto, you'll really be making a huge difference to the recording of what is a national addiction. By the way, for the BBC record, it rained the next day too.

What does autumn say to you?

Chill in the air; the first frosts; golden leaves crunching underfoot?

Personally, I think it is the most wonderous time of year. As Shakespeare put it, " The teeming autumn, big with rich increase, Bearing the wanton burden of the prime, Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease."  Of course, I was not want of love so the wanton burden is not orphaned to me!

Autumn is the season of tidying, of preparing for what the winter may bring; of taking stock too and thinking on the richness of the spring to follow. Perhaps best described as the slow gentle release of warm breath before the slumber.

Of course it offers much to the garden cognoscente. Visit an arboretum and enjoy the wonderful colours and textures that this time of year offers. If you are lucky, there may be some autumn crocus or cyclamen to brighten your perambulations and temper your mood. Seek out the Katsura tree, (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) whose golden leaves smell of burnt sugar when in hot sun or when crushed. A true gem of autumn.

When you return home think on. Leaf mould is a superb free source of soil improver, so, rather than burning the fallen crop why not collect it in string bags and give it a chance to rot down for a good late summer mulch next year. Nature giving free garden bounty cannot be sniffed at, or in the case of the Katsura, perhaps it can!

After the first frost has bitten, collect sloes and add it to gin. Let it steep for 2 months for a hearty Christmas  warmer. If you are so inclined I am told crab apple vodka is equally stimulating but time is running out for this year's crop as the apples are starting to tarnish!

Also, start to think over your garden plans. What are you going to plant and where. Look at the seed catalogues. If you are planning an evergreen bonanza, now is the time to purchase and plant. Spring bulbs are also in need of a good home. Just remember, try not to plant them in a fine lawn or in areas of special cultivation. You may regret the impulse.

Add a last mulch of compost or manure whilst the soil still retains some heat. Your plants will reward you next year for all the cosseting you give this.