IN THE STUDIO
Autumn - nature’s sigh of relief. After the September equinox the summer race is abruptly over, change on the wind. As the season begins to darken, there is a lightness that comes with letting go; the final dance at the end of the night, the swan song. Energies swirl around through shapeshifting September days. There’s the ascendancy before the tipping point and then, when the crest of the wave breaks a sense of abatement, but also renewal.
In the early mornings before work I walk the dog across Bushy Park, between copses of ancient oak trees, sunbeams slanting through the mist, deer making their strange, prehistoric mating calls across the mown paths and windswept grasses. The landscape is shifting, prairie-coloured, the air smells of smoke and warm hay. As the month goes on, leaves begin to fall and the wind picks up, swirling them around the tussocks, peppering the river with ochre and copper. We stand on the bridge watching them float by. I feed Mavis blackberries from the brambles; she wrinkles her nose if they are too sour and spits them out into the grass. But she likes the sweet ones. Sometimes in the studio we find her salvaging blackberries from the green waste.
Every year I think this moment is pure and utter magic, when the colours turn, even though I know that it is simply that the leaves, their veins closing up, are slowly starving of water and minerals, the chorophyll fading. I know this and yet every year I feel there is something so painfully romantic about it. Perhaps we just look for metaphors in the natural world to make sense of our own beginnings and endings.
It is my favourite time of the year to live in London; the city is so beautiful now. The street-lamps, red brick buildings, bridges. The melancholy parks, all skittering leaves and waning roses, tangles of dusty colours and fluff, acid hits of lime and dark berries. Mackerel skies reflected in the river.
In the studio we’re taking time to savour the last month of the growing season. Our rhythm is dictated by the garden, the business orbiting around it. We go up and down with the weather, harnessing and responding to the different energies each season brings, working hand in hand with them. Every project in these last few weeks is a product of this exquisite, stormy period between summer and winter, a cocktail of turning leaves and fruit, the feathers of grasses, the last flushes of flowers from plants that have given their all. For a wedding in Hampshire there are blackberries and sloes, elder and pale roses. For a class in London we harvest peony leaves that have turned a coveted nude-pink and pair them with limelight hydrangea and metallic fronds of Panicum squaw. One afternoon Yukiko shows us pictures of her favourite garden in Kyoto, thickly carpeted with red maple leaves. I come home to my flat and anxiously peer out of the hall window - my acer is still green, only the tips beginning to darken. When they finally fall it will be the beginning of winter.
IN THE GARDEN
In a gardener’s world it is the start of a new year.
This month we’ve all been hard at work turning the garden around for a fresh start, thinking ahead to spring. Taking out old crops, turning beds over, tilling the soil, planting seeds and hundreds of ranunculus and anemone corms for spring 2020 weddings and workshops. Early in the month we ordered large quantities of organic compost packed with sheep’s wool and bracken - a real treat for our hard-working beds.
Outside the perennial and annual beds are still going strong, giving us weekly bucket-loads of zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, borage, rudbeckia and centaurea and we’ve planted up several new varieties of frothy, feathery grasses. Exciting plans are being drawn up for a garden extension over the winter… more on this soon…
A couple of weeks ago a creative autumn shoot took us happily back to the garden in East Sussex where we held our annual retreat in June. How much it has changed in three months! - the colours and textures so different to the lightness of early summer. We teamed up once more with friends and collaborators Heidi, Kristin, Sarah and Annie. It is always such a pleasure to create beauty with these girls! And not forgetting Josh who gamely assisted, carrying camera equipment and heroically wafting bonfire smoke…
It was a perfect September day, smoky and mellow, the paths down to the dell carpeted with lilac cyclamen. It made me think of this poem, ‘Song of Autumn’, by Mary Oliver…
In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
IN THE ETHER
A few things we’ve been loving this month…
R E A D I N G - ‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms by Naoko Abe
L I S T E N I N G T O - Counting Crows: This Desert Life
E A T I N G - Tomatoes from the garden. Mum’s elderflower cake
V I S I T I N G - Polesden Lacey, Surrey