What a difference a week makes. Last weekend we were in shorts and t-shirts, enjoying a sunny 29 degrees and completely in denial that summer was (almost) over.
Seven days later and I concede autumn is here. Something to do with the 125km/hr winds, 225mm of rain in 48 hours, surfing on our extremely sheltered harbour beach (no, not me, just in case you were wondering), numerous mature trees coming down resulting in the loss of electricity to our street, and just after we spent the entire morning, wading through what felt like a foot of debris, cleaning up, three minutes of ‘the-world-has-ended’ hail stones immediately took the garden right back to where we started, with the added bonus of the few remaining leaves attached to plants having a lovely (?) lacy, shredded look to them.
Phew. I can honestly say that despite living in the tropics of Malaysia for two years, I have never seen weather like it. And whilst I always thought I was reasonably proficient at science, I’m am utterly discombobulated (love having an excuse to use that word) as to how the garden can turn white with ice on a 25 degree celsius day, however fast that ice is coming.
If I wasn’t already convinced about summer being over, I certainly was after our trip to the Blue Mountains on Sunday to see the autumn colours that sadly escape us in subtropical, coastal Sydney. That’s not to say that we don’t have deciduous plants here. Oh no, in fact my Brugmansia are looking particularly deciduous right now, which is pretty disconcerting, although I am hopeful they will bounce back. But we don’t have the cool night time temperatures to create that classic autumn display.
And so to the joys of the Blue Mountains trees. For some reason, I hadn’t consciously missed autumn colours last year, my first in Sydney, but being amongst them this weekend felt really nostalgic. Wrapped up in a warm coat, kicking the leaves beneath my feet, I got quite carried away with the romance of short days and cosy fires.
At ‘Woodgreen’ in Bilpin, we saw bracket fungus amongst the rotting leaves, which somehow also felt very English. All part of that damp-under-foot-for-eight-months-of-the-year thing.
And even the last remaining flowers reminded me of harvest festival, autumnal colours: reds, oranges and yellows, with a few blackberries thrown in for good measure.
Even the succulents had their burst of colour to join in with the rest!
I always think gardens look quite sad in autumn; tired, worn out, indeed expired and in need of a break. But, of course, the tired, ‘Woodgreen’ perennials are as such due to the amazing displays they put on throughout spring and summer; first the rapid, thick, fresh, spring growth and then the masses of flowers that follow.
Plant selection is nothing if not a game of compromises. Most either bring us bursts of pure joy, then periods of rest, or they offer year round structure, minus the dramatic, seasonal ‘wow’.
In Sydney, the trend is for 100% year round structure and nevermind the wow. When we enjoy being out in our gardens 12 months of the year, it is hard to accept bare patches of soil whilst so many evergreen plants are available to us. There is also the question of how fitting certain ‘English’ plants are in this land of palm trees and Frangipani.
But almost two years into life in Sydney and I so miss the colours, the ‘wow’ and the seasonal changes of cool temperate gardens. I don’t, for one moment, believe we should be trying to create ‘English’ ones, but I do think we are missing a trick.
We need greater proportions of evergreens in our gardens here to give that year round structure, but we also need to be clever interspersing them with plants that bring seasonal variation and adequate impact, to avoid a boring, static look. Taking advantage of plants that are summer dormant is a great way of achieving this seasonal change whilst maintaining year round balance and I will be exploring further ideas in a separate post.
For the time, I’m enjoying these two autumnal highlights in my garden, or at least I was until last week. Taken just before the storms, these photos show the plants that shout ‘autumn’ to me. I’ve also been planting like mad for the last two months, planning for seasonal highlights throughout the year, minus the bareness of winter. I’m wanting the best of both worlds and hoping that over time I will get there. For now, I’m feeling rather grateful to be back in the warmth of Sydney and acknowledging that I really am rather greedy in all that I ask for!