There is no getting away from the truth now, autumn is most definitely here, all hope of an Indian Summer has evaporated, as empty a promise as the long hot summer. The leaves are beginning to fall and the dampness has intensified. In a week the fronds of Matteuccia struthiopteris, the shuttlecock fern, have turned from lush green to their winter colours. They are perhaps even more beautiful now, like parchment paper cut-outs fresh from the oven, some a little singed. The central fertile fronds are stiff and chocolate-brown and will persist over winter to release their spores in spring. The outer showy but infertile shuttlecock is cream and bronze and quite like the ostrich feathers they are also named after. A damp shade lover, it spreads by stolons and in time will make a large colony. And if ever the gherkins run out, the young sprouts can be pickled and are a delicacy in Japan where they are called kogomi.