The Change of Seasons

Rosa 'Cecile Brunner' © Isabelle van Groeningen

Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’

I dislike the meteorologists’ calendar: they are of the opinion that autumn starts on the 1st September. I am a traditionalist who works by the astronomical calendar switching seasons when the earth’s position in relation to the sun changes.

The Autumn equinox

This year the autumn equinox will be the 23rd September. The meteorologists claim it reflects changing weather patterns, I fear it may also be a little “administrative” as it is easier to work with fixed, full calendar months rather than an approximate date that can vary by about three days. It seems weather patterns have become so unpredictable, that they do not fit into any type of calendar anymore.

It is not only out of respect for the influence of both sun and moon on vegetation (and ourselves), but it is also psychological: simply being able to distance myself that little longer from autumn with its colder weather, rain and shorter days.

The winter solstice is a time for private celebration as from this point on the days start lengthening again, and, weather permitting, the Hamamalis starts flowering. Despite the fact that there are still long, dark months ahead, the lengthening days are a positive improvement and the new season starts at this point.

Late Summer

So, it is not yet autumn, but the first signs are definitely there. Asters are slowly coming into action, the grasses are starting to look stunning, fruits and berries slowly gain colour together with the first hints of autumn colour. The changing light and misty mornings add a soft note of melancholy to this picture.

Nymans Garden - Change of Seasons © Isabelle van Groeningen

Nymans Garden

Looking at many of the summer flowerers, they too do not want to acknowledge the end of season yet. Roses are still, or are coming again into flower, Dahlias are really gaining momentum and delightful annuals like Cosmos and Tobacco plants are giving it all they can. A self-seeded Morning Glory has this year reached dizzying heights and has worked itself into the very top of the climbing roses that grow up the Root House. But similarly, Rudbeckias and my favourite Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ seem to be unstoppable.

Hot Border

Hot Border - Change of Seasons © Isabelle van Groeningen

Hot Border

Our two smaller borders that we change around quite often are looking great at present. The Hot Border is very fiery with a delicious mixture of various orange, red and very dark red Dahlias. These dark reds are sett off to contrast strongly with the bright orange flowers of the orange Cosmos sulphureus. Like with the ordinary Cosmos, they are a reliable summer annual, flowering over a long time, and do not need to be constantly dead-headed to keep them going.

Nymans-inspired Airy Fairy Border

Airy-Fairy Border The Change of Seasons © Isabelle van Groeningen

Airy-Fairy Border

This bed was once inspired by a great planting we saw in 2015 at Nymans Garden in Sussex. It consisted amongst others of various umbels like Bronze Fennel, Pennisetum grasses and Gaura. It was remarkably light and fluid, and some of this has been taken up in our planting. The Gaura, Pennisetum and Fennel have found their way into our bed, and have been complimented with Cosmos bipinnatus and matching Nicotiana mutabilis. Together with the flowers of the Gaura lindheimeri they produce a pleasing soft-toned effect that lasts a very long time.


The Roothouse

At the end of the main view of the Garden Academy stands the little Root Observation House. A charming red-brick building. It took about eight years before the roses finally met up. On the left is ‘Guirlande d’Amour’ a repeat-flowering rambler which seems to be unstoppable with its numerous small white filled flowers. To the right of it is the climbing ‘Cecile Brunner’. It seems to be shyer with its second flowers than it used to be in my garden, but the long hot summer has resulted in a few more late flowers. In the middle ‘Madame Gregoire Staechelin’ produces only once a year her large blousy scented flowers, followed by huge rosehips that start colouring up at the moment. It is in here that the Ipomoea purpurea seedling has romped up so it can now use the long new shoots of ‘Cecile Brunner’ to get even higher up the ladder.

The Dark end of the Big Border

At the top end, nearest to the roothouse I have concentrated the darker colours as they would get lost at the far end with its sombre backdrop of tall yews. The dark red rose ‘Munstead Wood’ is here, but also dark-leaved asters like Aster lateriflorus horizontalis ‘Lady in Black’ and A. laevis ‘Arcturus’. To bring in some lightness, we filled gaps with the white-flowered Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Albatross’. Like an albatross, these soar up to the skies. Another gap-filler is a delightful Dahlia I have finally manged to track down. Dahlia coccinea Dixter Form is a species which normally produces warm-red to orangey flowers. This one has an unusual hint of blue mixed into it, bringing it into the cool palette of colours that befits this border. Its single flowers and modest height of under one meter make it a good partner for the border.

I love this time of year, its gentle, soft light and relaxed atmosphere of the garden. No longer perfect, a little exhausted after the long, very hot summer it is still full of colour and full of life. Most important of all, it is full of promise of more flowers to come before autumn is ready to pass on the baton to Winter, regardless of the date.