Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Year's Last Fling




Beware!
More magic in the woods, the stubble fields, the ancient church-yards, the hedgerows, for October 10th is a significant day.
Eat-a-Goose Day, Don't-Pick-Blackberries Day, Chuck-Lucifer-Out-Of Heaven Day.
Michaelmas.

Yes, I know that Michaelmas is now September 29th, but that is a recent change brought about by Henry VIII and the Church of England, when it all got mixed up with Harvest Festival and ploughing the fields and scattering.
Old Michaelmas, the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels was October 10th, a more robust event, when good old angelic warrior Michael leaped into action to protect against the darkness and the fears of the night.
It was the day when he had his final ding-dong with Lucifer and threw him out of heaven. Lucifer landed in a blackberry bush and in his tantrum trampled and spat all over the blackberries, which is why they should not be picked after tomorrow. Devil's spittle may be organically sourced, but it's not good digestively.

The geese, which should be eaten tomorrow, will have been fattened on the stubble of the harvest fields. Everyone used to know that eating goose on October 10th provided financial protection for the rest of the year. Failure to observe this tradition could explain the sort of mess we find ourselves in today.
Queen Elizabeth I knew it, and was reputedly eating goose when the news of the Armada was delivered to her. She continued with her meal, just as Drake continued playing bowls, because people had the right priorities in those days.
(A memorable quote from an essay my father was once delighted to have marked contained the reputed quote from Drake: 'The Armada can wait....my bowels can't'.)
There were Goose Fairs and Goose Day.
Geese mattered.
How many do we see today?

So the year turns, the days shorten and cool, some birds leave us and others arrive, the fruits ripen. In the garden the most magnificent final fling is the Michaelmas Daisy, so called because its flowering is seen as the final and finest horticultural defiance against darkness.
There is no better place to see this defiance than at Old Court Nurseries and the Picton Garden, situated at the foot of the Malvern Hills, where the photograph above was taken a few days ago.
In glorious October sunshine admirers of the Autumn Flowering Aster wandered the winding paths around this enclosed space, dazed by a sea of blues and mauves, pinks and purples. The 400 or so species here represent the National Collection of this plant.

I have a few in my garden. I want more, but I need to organise better.
I want to have flowers all the year, but above all I want the late season defiance, the raising of the floral fist against encroaching cold and darkness.
Maybe it's my age?



12 comments:

marigold jam said...

Lovely nostalgic post. I did read somewhere that there is a scientific reason for not eating blackberries this late in the year and it was all to do with some little flies that abound just now and leave a nasty deposit on the berries. They used to know about these things back when didn't they? There is a goose farm near here - wonder if they are sold out this week! I too love michaelmas daisies and would love to visit that garden you show in your photo. Here's to shaking our fists at the coming months and thinking instead of the spring time.

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold: you've just about enough time to get the goose ready for tomorrow. As for the Nursery, you could fit it in to your visit to the Forest? I'm sure Jee and I could arranage something.

The Elephant's Child said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Elephant's Child said...

I removed my earlier comment because it was very clumsily expressed. The Aster gardens look delightful - and I really like the colours together as well. Thank you.

marigold jam said...

Lovely idea Judith - but the shortest way to do it by bus takes 3 hours and 3 or 4 changes and I am not sure about getting back either! However I will bear it in mind - thank you.

Molly said...

I'd like to shake my fist at some ants, armies of ants in fact, who are invading what I think of as MY space!

We don't have Michaelmas daisies but we have Mexican sunflowers that are climbing skywards and frantically pushing for a few last blooms before what passes here for winter arrives!

Those old traditions gave a lovely rhythm to the year...

Isabelle said...

So that's why I have never become rich. No goose-eating.

Zhoen said...

And God threw out the Illumination, lest it tell inconvenient truths.

Leslee said...

Love the story of the queen's goose. I've never had goose but wish they ate more of them here as they've taken over the local parks and median strips, having no predators.

Also, love the asters shaking their floral fists. I'll remember that on my walks seeing all the remaining flowers having their last fling. Not sure what kind of daisies we have, but there are lots of daisies and asters on the march, besides the potted chysanthemums everyone puts out this time of year next to their pumpkins.

Relatively Retiring said...

Elephant's Child: the gardens are at their best in sunshine, and unfortunately there has been none since I took the photo.

Molly: I agree with you about the sense of rhythm to the year, and the ancient traditions marking it.

Isabelle: the lack of geese accounts for so much doesn't it?

Zhoen: Quite! Lucifer was a star, first and foremost!

Leslee: I wonder if those Canada geese that dominate out parks taste like the more domesticated versions. Time to try, perhaps?

pohanginapete said...

Curious — Michaelmas seems unknown, or at least uncelebrated, here in New Zealand. However, Canada geese, introduced here in the late 19th and early 20th century, are now considered a pest by farmers. Perhaps the Michaelmas goose-eating tradition might be worth encouraging?

Blackberry's also considered a "noxious weed", so the off-flavour of blackberries is more likely to be herbicide than devil spit.

Relatively Retiring said...

P.Pete: thank you for the comment. It's likely that Michaelmas has to be an autumnal event, marking the dying of the horticultural year, so it wouldn't be right for your spring time.
The goose-eating here is no doubt closely associated with the flocks passing over in migration and stopping off to eat the newly sown spring wheat. All pagan when it comes down to it.......? Roast a goose in NZ and let me know.