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A harvest we can be thankful for

As autumn officially began, the continuing fine weather and the garden's bounty kept bringing to my grateful mind lines of favourite poems.

As autumn officially began, the continuing fine weather and the garden's bounty kept bringing to my grateful mind lines of favourite poems. I thought of Gerard Manley Hopkins's Pied Beauty and "Glory be to God for dappled things" every time I came across trees taking on their bright autumn colouring early with the dry, sunny weather and cooling nights.

Then there is Keats's To Autumn: "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/ Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun."

As in the poem, the season managed to "load and bless with fruit" the garden's trees and bushes. The blueberry crop was more than gratifying. Two dwarf Discovery apple trees have been heavily laden with bright red fruit, as was the prune plum tree. There was plenty to share.

And the raspberries! After a brief break following the July Fall Gold crop, flower and fruit formation began at the tops of the new canes. I began picking around mid-September and the canes just won't stop.

In recent years, I have kept the previous year's canes to produce a July crop, because the "fall" crop is so often ruined by mould in rainy weather. Not this year. The golden-orange berries are big and perfect, sweet and full-flavoured, and intensely fragrant enough to perfume the kitchen.

For handy snacks and desserts, I've been making sugarless squares using garden fruit. Most recently I've used a layer of raspberries topped with chopped prune plums and then thinly sliced apples or apple sauce over a crust, with the fruit covered by a crumble mixture before baking.

When this current raspberry picking is over, instead of cutting down the canes entirely, I'll remove only the upper, harvested portion of each one. These harvested canes will give me a crop next July. After the July picking, I'll cut the old canes down to the ground to allow the new canes plenty of space and sunlight to mature for a good late summer and early autumn crop.

When friends from South Africa visited last month, I was able to arrange a small snack pack of fruit to give them when they left for Telegraph Cove. The apples, small Tiger Stripe tomatoes and dark purple plums looked so attractive in a little box that they both took photographs. Sharing food (and flowers) that we've grown is an ideal way to celebrate gardening.

The flowers, too, have benefited from a perfect September. Zinnias and marigolds, dahlias and dianthus are full of perky, unblemished bloom. The fall crocuses and colchicums, usually battered down in early autumn rains, have lost none of their sparkling splendour.

Meanwhile, the fall and winter vegetable garden is full to groaning with lettuces and radicchio, leeks, brussels sprouts, kale, mizuna, cabbage, sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower.

So much to be thankful for. May you and your families revel joyfully in gratitude for the earth's bounty this weekend.

GARDEN EVENTS

The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is offering a course with maintenance gardener Jane Tice, who will cover such autumnal activities as clean-up, mulching, deadheading, fall pruning, rose care, division, relocation (and removal). The class will include a garden tour to illustrate some of the material covered. Saturday, Oct. 13, 1 to 4 p.m. Cost to members $25, others $35. To register phone 250-479-6162. hcp.ca.

The Victoria Hardy Plant Group is presenting Dancing with Borders, this year's Elizabeth England lecture, with James Alexander-Sinclair, on Oct. 14 at 3 p.m. in the Salvation Army Citadel, 4030 Douglas St. Alexander-Sinclair is a popular British garden designer, television personality, author and lecturer. He writes for England's best garden magazines and has designed show gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show. Tickets at $15 are available at the door or at all Dig This locations in Victoria and Sidney.

The Provincial Master Gardeners Association is celebrating 30 years of providing public education on sustainable gardening with a conference on Oct. 20, at the Beban Centre in Nanaimo. The day program is now sold out, but there are still some tickets available for the evening program, from 6: 30 to 8 p.m. featuring Full Frontal Gardens: Gone the Lawn, with Lucy Hardiman from Portland, Oregon. For more information go to mgabc.org and click on Events.

hchesnut@bcsupernet.com