Never mind the Pin Oak leaves swirling in a sudden backyard leafstorm – those russet layers of red and gold are the stuff of deferred gratification: raking them in the backyard, in the pale autumn sunlight. And forget pulling out the spent summer crops, trimming trees and the other gardening chores.
Most can be ticked off as done and dusted but the one I’ve put off longer than usual because it’s been such a gloriously golden farewell to summer, is cutting back our grapevine.
Not that it’s been hugely productive – a few bunches of grapes when it feels like it – a performance which once led an elderly Croatian to say that grapevines had to be made to struggle.
“So cut it back hard and just leave it” he advised. Well yes that worked, briefly. Then the gluttons of blackbirds and thrushes made short work of what fruit it did offer. Besides, we didn’t grow it for grapes. We wanted to give our bald garage entrance some eyebrows, so to speak.
We followed the old Croatian’s ideas, never bothered about the fruit but were routinely thrilled when much later we saw its first buds signalling that Spring rebirth was not too far away.
Our vine was nothing more than an aesthetic tonic of sorts. But seasons change and finally, reluctantly we took to it with the secateurs – the gardener’s executioners. Down came this year’s vintage crop of… leaves.
If we felt a surge of joy when those first buds appeared in earlier seasons, then we grieved when we cut the vine back hard.
It signalled the end of our long summer where we could sit in its warmth, shaded partly by vine leaves and just occasionally, thoughts of our own seasons….