An awareness of the passing seasons is a grounding thing. It relates us to the world outside our window which might otherwise be perceived only in momentary glimpses as the natural realm intrudes upon our busy lives: suddenly we’re driving to work in the dark, shorts and t-shirts are consigned to the back of the wardrobe, and one day soon we’ll awake to find the lawn shrouded in leaves. We note the signs that mark our passage from spring to summer, to autumn, to winter and back to spring and, while we may complain about the less welcome aspects – complaining is in our nature after all, and something to be enjoyed – we are fortunate to live in a part of the world where the passing of time is softened by the comforting regularity of discernibly different seasons. But as much as we tend to think of clearly defined periods, each with their own individual events and moods, in reality we spend as much time transitioning between one and the next, where the interregnum is marked by a character of its own.
We are somewhere between summer and autumn, which has as distinctive a personality as a snowy winter’s day or a fresh spring morning. Fuchsias reign in the borders alongside the big daisies; asters and echinacea, dahlias, helianthus – hairy of leaf and smiley of countenance – cosmos and heleniums, while nicotianas waft and tall miscanthus shamelessly exploit the low evening sun. Sweet peas are running to seed faster than I can cut the flowers, and must now be wrested from their supports. It has become impossible to walk down the garden path without some specimen of ripened vegetation popping a seed pod at me. Earlier flowering plants have done their thing for the year and are capturing the last of the summer’s nourishing sun, squirreling it away underground in bulbs or starchy roots, before they drop their leaves and hibernate for the winter.
This week, the first of the leaves have started to turn. Not the desiccated parchment coloured foliage caused by a dry summer, which caused alarm in some quarters at the prospect of an unlikely early autumn. These are the first signs of the rich golds and reds and earthy hues in which autumn prides itself, as the green slowly bleeds out of each leaf with the shortening of the days.
By then, of course, it will be autumn proper. Something to look forward to.