I love the garden at this time of year. My London patch is peaceful: the neighbours are safely tucked up in the warmth whilst I gently work away in the last of the afternoon light. Deadheading the last of the roses, cutting back the raspberry canes and exploring the warmth of the autumnal colours.
Autumn used to depress me; uprooting my precious tomato plants, so carefully nurtured, and watching as the last of the flowers lose their colour. Then a wise friend told me how she puts her garden to bed for the winter and I love the idea of watching everything quietly go dormant, the lush green and strong colours of summer giving way to a gentler palette.
Part of my conversion to the love of autumn gardens comes from getting the planting right. People assume garden designers have perfect gardens. Some may, I certainly don’t. Mine is a laboratory, a space to experiment with which plants work, how they behave, which are the best ‘value’ through the seasons in terms of flowering or structure. I have learned to love plants not just for their greenery and colourful flowers but also for their structural seed-heads and winter form. There seems to be an obsession with keeping gardens ‘tidy’ - clearing away the merest hint of a dead leaf or seed-head. My garden used to be almost bare by late autumn.
Now it is full of glorious grasses, their blades gently yellowing, browning seed heads bobbing. The green of Rosemary and glaucas of Euphorbia become more exposed as the Agastache retreats into tall, bending spears. Sedums lose their rosy flush for a deep, claret red which will eventually transform into glorious umbrel seed heads. The blueberry plants finally give up the last of their crimson leaves.
Watching this process of change is, for me, as exciting as watching it come to life in spring.