I'm so glad I Iive in a world where there are Octobers. - L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
We are in the thick of autumn, here, heading headlong into winter coats and richer colours. The last of the dahlias and Japanese anemones coincide with eddying leaves; the garden flickers with the colours of fire-flames.
I can't help but wonder, though I do every year, how briefly the baton of summer is held by autumn - and then, in a second, it is snatched by November and scampered away into the freezing mist of winter. One minute you are holding armfuls of sweetpeas, and the next you are pulling on extra socks, buying gloves, ordering pumpkin spice lattes in Starbucks, day dreaming of orange pomanders. Summer is over.
Autumn is a time for walking and looking. Sidestepping the car/bus/taxi and setting out on foot. All over town, in mansion flat courtyards, scrambling up trellises, there are roses still, collisions of fluffy roses and vividly colourful leaves falling from skeletal branches.
Invariably, the afternoons are dappled with pools of warm sunlight and the scent of damp bonfires and overripe fruit. Everything is cast in that balmy light, eaves and turrets, little front gardens, cats on doorsteps, cafes and pubs, people meandering or marching, arguing, air-kissing, walking dogs, shopping for groceries.
Last night on the tube home, which runs overground into Richmond, I was witness to a pink, incandescent dusk; crossing Kew Bridge every carriage of the train lit up, one by one, like a string of fairy lights, the Thames turned gold and glittering. Even a mundane commute is made filmic by an autumn sunset.
At home I have the same vase of Nerines on the dining table for two weeks, in an old Indian vase with snake handles. I don't know why these particular flowers are so overlooked; to me they are just exquisite, clusters of little intricate lily heads and curving stems and, at first, they have a fragrance similar to a bar of milk chocolate, which fades over time. We use a few stems of them in an autumn wedding bouquet with dahlias - shell pink Nerines, with the golden shades of autumn around them, and a rich blue silk ribbon.
We made our first wreath of the season this month, crafted into a logo shape for new fashion brand Sosandar who were hosting a press breakfast to celebrate their launch at Skye Gyngell's beautiful restaurant Spring at Somerset House. And individual buttonholes of wispy Serruria florida, fragrant sprigs of silvery Ozothamnus and metallic-edged ribbon.
Speaking of buttonholes, I often wonder how, when and why these funny, frivolous little creations came into being. There doesn't seem to be a definitive explanation for this; flowers have been worn by both sexes in many and various ways forever. The trend for floral lapels seems to have developed in the early 19th century and, although the rules regarding them have perhaps relaxed - it isn't considered an unspeakable outrage today not to match the groom's to the bride's bouquet - they are still very much a part of the floral regalia at weddings and important events. I pinned quite a few this summer to the morning suits of grooms and fathers of brides, carried trays of them hither and thither, offering them like oysters. I used to think they were ridiculous little fripperies, now I am inordinately fond of them, as if they were miniature bouquets and of just the same importance.
And there is something about that time, the slim crescent of time you carve out before an event begins - and we often leave it right to the last second so they're fresh - that half hour or so of relative calm, concentrating on these intricate little rituals. Layering a flower or bud, a herb, a leaf, a sprig of berries, tying the ribbon, adding a pin. It's ceremonial, somehow. After Herculean effort, the last little task. I miss wedding season already.
In the nick of time - before the first frost and while there were still dahlias galore - we hosted Claire from Honeysuckle & Hilda (Hilda is the cashmere-sweater-wearing miniature schnauzer) for the day for a private class in the garden. It felt like a celebration of the abundant season of British flowers we've just had. We used the last of our cosmos, scabious, orlaya, sweetpeas and Japanese anemones from the cutting garden, buckets and buckets of them, and they were beautiful to the last.
Already our narcissus and ranunculus bulbs are planted for the spring. Tulips soon to follow. Our alliums, lilies, anemone and bearded iris bulbs are in the ground for summer, foxglove seedlings planted and hardy annual seeds sown.
In autumn it goes with the territory to be planning ahead, gaining momentum. It's a busy time, a new term, the start of a new year in many ways; we're meeting our new brides, sketching for design briefs, writing up proposals. I've always half a mind on the colours changing outside the window, the new season setting in with its frost and ice and half wanting to press pause on this magical interim betwixt summer and winter. But there are wreaths to design and make and hang, workshops to teach, events and winter weddings still to flower for. And then, not long after, those first white narcissus of 2017 will appear on the horizon. [Rabbit-proof fence permitting.]