Last month’s riot of autumnal colour disappears in fog and mist as November drapes the world in grey. The harvest is over for the most part but there is still much to do, if we are willing. The greenhouse and shed as well as pots and containers could do with a spruce up and the smoky shades of November might just inspire us to dip our brushes into a bolder paint for contrast. The painters El Greco and Rembrandt favoured grey as a backdrop for more colourful subjects and it is in this month that we may take a leaf from their books. Red or gilded pots are the natural accompaniment to Poinsettias and Holly but lend an air of festivity to any plant. A touch of red trim to the newly tidied shed can brighten up the whole allotment. And if painting doesn’t appeal, there are still leaves to rake, seed catalogues to peruse and gingerbread men to bake.
Old Wife’s Gingerbread
2 cups treacle
1 cup equal parts butter and lard, mixed
1 level tablespoonful ginger
1 teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda
Flour to mix (very stiff)
Melt the butter; dissolve the soda in a teaspoonful of boiling water, mix in the treacle; add mixture to the melted butter and ginger; stir in flour till the dough is so stiff you cannot stir it with a spoon; turn onto a floured board, and roll a little at a time. With a knife or biscuit cutter cut out your men and women; press currants in for eyes and buttons. Bake in a floured pan til golden.
The thinnest yellow light of November is more warming and exhilarating than any wine they tell of. The mite which November contributes becomes equal in value to the bounty of July.
Henry David Thoreau
Who first comes to this world below
In dreary November’s fog and snow,
Should prize the topaz amber hue,
Emblem of friends and lovers true.
From the gardener’s point of view, November can be the worst month to be faced: Nature is winding things down, the air is cold, skies are gray, but usually the final mark of punctuation to the year has yet to arrive – the snow; snow that covers all in the garden and marks a mind-set for the end of a year’s activity. There is little to do outside except to wait for longer days in the new year and the joys of coming holidays.
A September to remember. An October full of splendour.
A November to treasure.