September 2009




I began this post near the start of spider-season, then WordPress got arachnophobic and deleted it all. But two weeks later our eight-legged friends are still out in force – and are starting new families too.


spider and fly

The garden spider’s one of the most visible bugs in British gardens at this time of year – certainly every harvest in my garden involves the inadvertant collection of a fine head-dress of webs.

But while they’re common – and it’s apparently a bumper year – they’re definitely worth a look.

Arinaeus diadematus create the standard fairytale webs – the same that collect drops of dew early in the morning and make hedgerows look like the window displays in Hatton Garden.

Their bodies range from muted greys to glowing ambers, but all have a line of white spots stamped down the middle.

Two weeks ago I watched them sit motionless in the centre of their traps – until something caught and writhed – then they’d dart into action.

The spider on the right hoisted its little package up on a thread and turned it round and round until totally wrapped in silver.

Prey is anything up to the size of bees and butterflies. Once wrapped they’re injected with digestive enzymes and sucked dry until only husks remain.

The table's laid, and dinner is ready

The table's laid, and dinner is ready

Sudden movements can make the spiders retreat out of their webs. I'd read that when alrmed they'll sometimes stridulate - rub their legs together to alarm you - like crickets do - but I couldn't persuade my spiders to perform

Sudden movements can make the spiders retreat out of their webs. I'd read that when alarmed they'll sometimes stridulate - rub their legs together like crickets do - to alarm predators, but I couldn't persuade my spiders to perform

The smaller males lurk at the edge of the dance-floor, then literally risk life and limb to try their luck – strumming the web as they advance towards the centre and shouting “Seriously, would I make all this noise if I were food?”

All the swollen mothers now sat astride their traps are evidence that some made it.

Spider on fennel
Spider on fennel

Full to bursting

Full to bursting

The females are now starting to build eggs sacs which they’ll guard, unfed, until their deaths. All will be quiet until next spring when the miniature spiderlings (and I rejoice so much that this is the actual word) will emerge and build themselves tiny silken parachutes that will carry them far and wide.



So you thought you had to go oyster diving to find pearls?

The iridescent lustre of home-grown organic pearls

The iridescent lustre of home-grown organic pearls

Before you rush to place your order, there’s one tiny difference you may like to consider: While your common or ocean pearl is formed inside a mollusc, in the common or garden variety the mollusc forms inside the pearl.



Here goes my GBBD virginity…

They’re mainly veg, because that’s what I grow.

Aubergine, Nest Of Eggs

Aubergine, Nest Of Eggs. They're a bit late, but I'm still hoping for fruit

Aubergine flowers, Violetta Lunga

Aubergine, Violetta Lunga: These are fruiting well - long purple sausages - but still plenty more flowers.

scarlet marigolds

What! A flower that won't bear fruit? What's the use of that? The marigolds flower on and on, have kept the aphids off my veg and made the merry little bees buzz with joy, so they're allowed



These make me smile and I can eat the seeds, if other beasts don't get there first

And these will give me soothing camomile tea, in a fruitless bid to make me sleep at the same time as normal people


Lastly, greenfly bait, spicy salad ingredient, and potential caper substitute, if I ever get round to pickling after picking. Though I also want to leave as many of the scarlet flowers as possible to seed.

collecting raindrops

Collecting raindrops: I have to confess to having probably broken the rules, and will most likely be disqualified. While these plants were all flowering this morning, the pictures were not taken today - because it was dark when I got home, and this was happening

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dream Gardens


I hoped to get some seed from this dwarf sunflower, but something else had the same idea, and it vanished overnight. Only a gnawed stalk was left.
Just like the one post I previously found time to write this week, but which WordPress has devoured and refuses to regurgitate. I’ve been working long hours for the last fortnight and have hardly seen the garden – no time to be outside, and no time to blog – so I resent the thefts, both inside and out.

Last time I was outside I was harvesting the bounty of a Mediterranean paradise. Now I find sharp breezes whipping the colour from the leaves, and the dank has coiled out from the  earth and is pulling the lush leaves down into brown decay.

In a few days I’ll be relishing autumn: the breezes will be crisp, not sharp, the fading leaves will be vivid new colours and I’ll bury my nose in the earthy rot smell with satisfaction. But for now I feel like I missed the last days of summer, and instead of the gradual shift of the seasons, it’s like the shock of seeing a long-absent friend and realising they’ve aged.

“O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until”


“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did”


No, I don’t normally eat my breakfast on a doily. I just got it out for the Emsworth Village Show.