Autumn Inspiration

Each year I am reminded how much I love September.

There is a bitter-sweetness to September. We are aware that summer is lost. At the same time, every warm, sunny day is treasured as a lucky find.

Yesterday we visited Sarah Raven’s garden at Perch Hill. It was pretty much a perfect day out.

The Entrance to the Cutting Garden, Perch Hill

We arrived mid-afternoon, and I think we missed the crowds.

We were able to drift around the cutting garden unimpeded by the hoards of linen-clad admirers that have characterised previous visits.

Instead, we were delightfully crowded by the planting. We had to lift up or duck beneath drooping stems.

Fading sunflowers are one of the many delights of September.

2019 has been the summer of the butterfly. We have had an influx of painted lady butterflies, with ten times the average number counted in the annual ‘Big Butterfly Count‘. I have been struck by how many more butterflies of all species I have seen in my garden. Perch Hill was also aflutter. The butterflies loved the single dahlias, rudbeckias, sunflowers, zinnias and cosmos in the cutting garden.

Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’

Sarah Raven is known for her wonderful displays of dahlias.

They are grown in such abundance. You can lose yourself in dahlias.

Whilst Sarah Raven’s signature look is bright and bold, she has in recent years experimented with vintage pastels too.

This is the joy of garden visiting. The planting is on a scale that could not be replicated in a domestic garden. So you just marvel and enjoy the spectacle whilst you are here.

I concluded this summer that I do not have the commitment to keep pots watered through summer. And so I enjoy pots in other people’s gardens all the more.

In my exploration of lower-maintenance-but-still-stunning gardening, one of my key plants is the perennial sunflower. I have planted three of these wonderful beasts in my bright border. They are drought-tolerant and provide fresh colour from August through to November.

We indulged, as we always do on garden visits, in tea and cake. This allowed us to soak in the sun and listen to the birds. It was blissful.

The light is so beautiful in September.

It streams in from an angle, rather than beating down from above. It kisses the cheek and the shoulder. I could sit in the September sun all day long.

Verbena rigida makes a gorgeous purple border in the vegetable plot.

Was there ever a more beautiful vegetable plot?

Here is a gorgeous array of dahlias [sigh].

And now a dahlia landscape. This place is dahlia heaven.

But it wasn’t all dahlias. Salvias were the supporting act.

Salvia involucrata ‘Hadspen’

I loved this combination of slightly different varieties of Salvia x jamensis. I will be adding to my collection!

Verbena bonariensis is a fantastic edger for dahlias. You can look through the airy delicacy of verbena onto a sea of dahlias beyond.

Umbels of bronze fennel are also perfect for a titillating contrast in texture.

I have always shied away from yellow, but it is really growing on me. Give me an explosion of yellow dahlias any time.

This photo demonstrates what I mean about September light.

These were the trial beds.

There is no shortage of new dahlias to try for next year!

Or zinnias!

I have slightly fallen in love with the shaggy ‘Zinderella’ series. It is like a family pet in flower form.

I found myself in a zen state of bliss as we took a last drift around, and floated out of the garden.

Perch Hill has never failed to inspire me. This is aspirational, inspirational gardening.

If I can create even a little smidge of this next year, I will be a happy gardener.

The Mindful Gardener will post sporadically in Autumn and Winter. There will be digging, mulching, planting, and fantasising about Spring.

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38 Comments Add yours

  1. plantbirdwoman says:

    Beautiful! It is an inspiration for all of us. If only I could create something one-tenth as wonderful.

    1. It was slightly overwhelming in its perfection! But then there is at least one full time Gardener and probably a small team.

  2. Beautiful photos – Sarah Raven has such vivid, inspiring colours.

    1. The colour and texture combinations are indeed stunning.

  3. Kath says:

    So enjoyed your blog Ali

    1. I’m very happy to hear this, Kath. Thank you.

  4. Ann Mackay says:

    I enjoyed seeing Perch Hill through your eyes. The dahlias are amazing – I’ve learned to really appreciate their late colour over the last few years and am just starting to try them in the garden here. The increased number of butterflies has been one of the joys of this summer. 🙂

    1. Dahlias and tulips were the two flowers that really pulled me in to gardening. I will be forever in love with them.

  5. bcparkison says:

    Yellow is a hard one to get right but when they do…it is perfect. Like painting a room…yellow is a hard on to get right.
    Lovely visit and a dream of a garden .

    1. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but when it is right it is such a beautiful sight. I am appreciating it more and more.

  6. Eliza Waters says:

    Beautiful and inspiring garden… thanks for sharing your visit with us, Alison.

  7. Suzanne says:

    Dahlias are certainly making a big comeback. I noticed a few in the garden centre yesterday. They always make a grand showing. Lovely photos. I was choosing less flowery purchases as in herbs.

    1. They keep on providing interest into autumn, which I love. I am picking more and more each week, as they don’t slow down when the days get shorter.

  8. Jo Shafer says:

    A September garden in good form is rare, depending upon how arid August had been. Most of my perennials are quite tired of making the effort. On the other hand, several of my roses are still blooming, especially after I cut them back by half two weeks ago. They’ll keep on until the first hard frost in late October, although sometimes we’re blessed with an Indian Summer of warm days following chilly nights by mid-month.

    1. We appreciate those days so much more don’t we? I practised yoga outside yesterday and it was blissful.

  9. Beautiful gardens – and your photographs surely do them justice! Every season has it’s highlights, but for me personally autumn is probably my favourite by a small but definite margin – maybe it’s because of how the weather works in our part of the world.

    1. I am loving autumn more and more. It has a subtlety and a mature dignity that appeals more with each passing year!

  10. Cathy says:

    What a lovely serene spot that is! Beautiful photos that really convey the peace and calm of a sunny September afternoon. I know what you mean about the sunshine in September, and the light too. Happy September Ali!

  11. Emma Cownie says:

    This garden is dahlia heaven indeed. Yes, autumn is my favourite season too. You describe it well as “bitter sweet”.

    1. All the best things in life have a slight edge, I think.

  12. Cathy says:

    Thank your sharing this with us, Ali – whatever people think of the Sarah Raven empire there is no denying the stupendousness of tgese gardens. They are now on my wishlist but I shall have to try and remember to visit late in the day! Are the pink spikes in the first photos persicaria of some sort? Hope the job and your new routines are going well – and you are not suffering witgdrawal symptoms from having to spend less time in the garden… 😉

    1. I thought they were persicaria, Cathy. I wasn’t confident enough to label the photo as such, and I couldn’t find a plant label, but your id makes me more confident.
      Thank you for your warm wishes. Summer has flown by, and I am having to reduce my preening in the garden and allowing it to be a little more relaxed. Life is always unfolding, isn’t it?

      1. Cathy says:

        Yes, we have to modify our lives sometimes to fit round commitments. Hope you are enjoying your new role though, despite less time to preen in the plot

  13. Heyjude says:

    I would love to visit her garden, in fact I’d be happy simply to have that entrance to the cutting garden! Lovely big pots. Thank you for this September visit. You are quite right, we simply don’t have gardens of this scale so it is marvellous to be allowed to wander around them. Saying that, your own garden is pretty impressive for its lovely herbaceous borders.

    1. The entrance is stunning, isn’t it? I certainly feel I have enough or more than enough garden to tend!

  14. Jill Kuhn says:

    So luscious and lovely! Thank you for the garden tour! 🌿🌸🌻 My neighbor grows beautiful dahlia’s. She recently gave me a bouquet that I painted in watercolor. How I would love to sit in a garden like this and paint!! Such beauty for the senses. Thanks Ali! 💗

    1. It’s my pleasure to share it with you Jill.

  15. This was lovely. I have noticed more butterflies this year also.

    1. Haven’t they been gorgeous? They add so much to the garden.

  16. So beautiful as ever Alison. I must get to one of her Dahlia days. Your photos are just stunning.

  17. Beautiful photos as always, and two things: 1) This post makes me want to grow dahlias next year in my flower garden; and 2) You have inspired me to start visiting more gardens around where I live! I am so glad you will still be posting in the fall and winter and also glad you are letting yourself rest, too.

    1. That is lovely to hear, Shelly. Dahlias are a lot of fun: there are so many forms and colours and plenty to pick for inside the house.

  18. Jane Lurie says:

    Now this is a place to get lost in, Ali, and your photos are inviting and beautiful. So many incredible blooms. 🌺

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