Autumn has come!

By Miriam van der Molen, Archivist, Special Collections & Archives

The air has suddenly become much cooler, and the days drastically shorter. I thought it would be apt to share some autumnal content from our collections.

First is a poem by Alexander Smith, contained in a collection of poems called ‘The Poetry of Earth: A Nature Anthology’, published by George G Harrap and Company (1910):

The beech is dipped in wine; the shower
Is burnished; on the swinging flower
The latest bee doth sit.
The low sun stares through dust of gold,
And o’er the darkening heath and wold
The large ghost-moth doth flit.
In every orchard Autumn stands
With apples in his golden hands.

Woodcut of beehives from ‘Omnia Andreae Alciati v.c. emblemata cum commentariis…’ (Antwerp, 1581) by A. Alciati

This is the time of year when people are harvesting the produce that has been growing for months. Here are some drawings of parts of apple and pear trees in a botanical educational book by Otto Schmeil, as well as potato plant parts:

While apples and pears get eaten, not everything is edible for humans. Take horse chestnuts for example. Horses can eat them, but they are poisonous to humans. However, they are useful in that they can be used to make an eco-friendly laundry liquid for slightly to medium soiled laundry. You need about five chestnuts per load of laundry. Beat them with a hammer (outside on the ground is safest), remove as much shell as possible, and mash the white inside part until it has turned into smaller pieces (the smaller the better, but they don’t have to be very small). Then put into a container and pour hot water over the pieces. After soaking between 5 hours and 2 days, pour through a sieve into the laundry detergent section of the washing machine. Add a few drops of essential oils if you want a little bit of a fresh smell.

Horse chestnuts. From ‘Lehrbuch der Botanik’ by Otto Schmeil.

If you prefer flowers in your garden, rather than food, Schmeil also has some nice pictures showing tulip composition. This is also relevant to our Autumn theme, as this is the time to put down flower bulbs. So if you dug up your bulbs earlier this year, or have just bought some, get digging and plant them so you will get some pretty Spring flowers next year.

Tulips. From ‘Lehrbuch der Botanik’ by Otto Schmeil.

The book ‘Garden Perennials’ by John Weathers, has a lovely image of sweet peas and of an oriental poppy. Another book, ‘Hardy Perennials’ by A.J. Macself (1922), tells us that poppies grow well in lots of places, whether sheltered or on a hill, or in rich soil or gravel. The one thing they do need is sunlight, however. So while sweet peas and poppies are finished flowering now for this year, any plants that are still standing may have seeds that are now ready for harvesting for sowing next year.

To summarise, it is now the time to pick and eat fruit such as apples and pears, dig up potatoes, gather chestnuts to make laundry liquid, plant bulbs of flowers such as tulips and daffodils, and collect seeds of any plants whose flowers have produced them now. Happy gardening and gathering!

4 thoughts on “Autumn has come!

  1. Alan Monahan October 13, 2021 / 6:16 pm

    Congratulations Miriam, I never knew about the Horse Chestnuts, great tip, thanks. Alan

    Liked by 1 person

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