September arrived in mood and spirit on the first day of the month. Cool nights and shortening days have made their impact. The pumpkins suddenly exposed and glowing orange under withering foliage, which just days before had August vigour. Rosehips reddened in the hedgerows, arching out under their own weight and marking where I have introduced the Eglantines.
We have been readying ourselves for a return to Greece to chase last heat. The best of the blackberries, the last of the raspberries and the un-ripened tomatoes have been shoehorned into the freezer and the beans that have not been eaten have been left on the vines so we can collect the seed upon our return.
It is a good time to leave the garden, now that the season has tipped the balance. Laid back and relaxed by September, the seed heads are already setting the tone. Chamerion angustifolium ‘Album’ run up like sparklers and now extinguished but for their silvery seed. On the bright, dry days the breeze is full of it and always makes me thankful that the white form of the Rosebay Willow Herb is sterile. The tails on the Pennisetum, which have harvested the light in the centre of the garden for weeks, are losing their seed. The pulse is gone now, and suddenly, from the Persicarias, where just a fortnight ago they were blazing and humming with bees. These last few days has seen them tapering and on the wane.
As if by clockwork, and sending us off in the knowledge that we will miss the best of them, the Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’ broke ground last weekend. We are bound to miss something in the next fortnight, but it was good to find their pristine goblets amongst the Asters. Pushed clean out of the bare earth as the air begun to cool and rain opened up their window, the freshness of flower and then the lustre of their winter foliage forge quite a counterpoint to the pulling back of autumn. It has taken a while to find them a place that they like, but here in openings amongst the Chasmanthium and pushing through a mat of Viola riviniana ‘Purpurea’, they are covered for during their period of summer dormancy.
It is hard to stop using the term Aster for the recently renamed Eurybia and Symphyotrichon. The re-naming of the tribe has none of the magic or the reference to starriness and the Asters add exactly that as they begin to make their autumnal presence. The Colchicum sit amongst Symphyotrichum ericoides ‘Pink Cloud’. I have it above the tool shed where it billows over the path beside the Crataegus coccinea. It is a delicate plant, fine in all its parts and mid-season as Asters go. The Anemone hupehensis ‘Splendens’ with its offset, asymmetrical petals has been out for August already and make a fine bedfellow for the Aster and the Colchicums. I have jumped the mix into the garden beyond to make a celebratory entrance. It is good to ensure that summer is not missed for the anticipation and then reward of the autumn performers.
The third season in the garden has settled the planting and there is a richness that comes once the mingling is complete in the autumn. The Heptacodium micanoides that will eventually shadow the steps down to the studio is in full and perfumed flower. This small Chinese tree does not really have a down time. Pale bark in winter keeps you from missing foliage when it is in its deciduous state and sickle-shaped leaves provide a good hearty green whilst the flowers gather for autumn. For now, because it will be bound to change once this shrub grows to become a small tree, I have given it a number of pale companions. Sanguisorba ‘Korean Snow’ towering to nearly three metres and Selinium wallichianum to score the horizontal in late umbels. It is good to have found a sheltered spot for the perennial buckwheat which smashed and shattered when it was just a few metres away, but has found its spot in the lea of the building and is seeding about to add further informality.
When we return things will be different. The smoky cloud of Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’ will have lost its thundery tones and will be turning biscuity. For now they provide a moody suspension for the bolt of bright Vernonia that push strong and stout amongst them. The Molinia are planted in a group where the paths intersect, Being amongst them is immersive and have made a talking point for friends and family who have also been drawn to their stillness or the breeze made visible.
Taking it all in before leaving, we have had to look carefully and commit this moment to memory. Drinking in the palest blue of the aptly named Succisella inflexa ‘Frosted Pearls’, for it will be gone when we return, it feels as if the garden is almost at its best for being relaxed and for no longer striving. Teetering before falling, flashing the last colour before dimming and giving still as it ripens and readies for a penultimate chapter.
Words: Dan Pearson | Photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 29 September 2019