The Orange Tip

Tag: autumn

Waterlow Park

Waterlow 1

Waterlow is my nearest London park. Those not living in close proximity to this incredible yet tucked-away paradise of a landscape tend not to have heard of it. It isn’t very big, as London parks go.

I recently took a few rolls of 35mm film to be developed and found this photograph among the prints. I’d forgotten taking it, but instantly remembered its context upon seeing it – the unexpectedly high temperature that day, the quietness, walking up to Highgate with coffee and a banana, annoying my girlfriend by taking so long to retrieve my camera from the depths of a rucksack, and then to angle the photograph. While holding the coffee and banana.

On any other day just like this one, the same view could have been a much more crowded one; it isn’t as though the park is a secret. I just love that, perhaps even unbeknownst to them, one person had the entire scene to themselves.

The Wood Beyond


Parkdale, Toronto

Parkdale, Toronto

A recent written commission took me across the water to the cities of Toronto and Detroit. Although the two occupy separate countries, they share their regional territory with an ancient woodland: the Carolinian forest. Much of this once sprawling and prolific disiduous wood has sadly been lost, 90% in fact. Originally spreading across America, climbing North-West from the Carolinas into southern Ontario, Canada, sadly now only pockets can be found: those baring the original broadleafed footprint of the true Carolinian forest.

Having undertaken the otherwise strictly-urban commission in prime-time, fully swung, brightly glowing autumn, making a few dashed escapades into the surrounding woods was something I couldn’t have resisted. More images on the AWAY page.

Leaves upwards2

Collected Runners

Handful of borlotti & ‘Red Rum’ runner beans collected before pulling up the shoots and frames. Stunning colours.


Maple Leaves


This Autumn brought a period of relief in the garden; where for brief moments the rain stopped and the clouds dissipated and the season behaved in the manner in which we all hoped it would. Given that we lost out on an entire Autumn last year; when the leaves seemed to reach the ground before they had a chance to turn, together with a closely following warm Winter and wet Summer, the colours we’ve had this time round have been all the more welcome. It’s safe to say that, in those rain-free moments, the Autumn show this year has been incredible. All up and down the country the views from September have been impressively rich in reds, oranges, yellows and browns. Beeches, poplars, oaks, hazels, hawthorns and, perhaps most significantly, the Acers (sycamore, norway and field maples etc) all formed dramatic impressions along the landscape.

At the garden back in Richmond our beacon has been the huge Norway maple overlooking the top meadow. Over the last couple of months from it’s initial gradual turn to the last few leaves to drop, I’ve been stunned by the impression it’s made on the garden. My notebook is full with the detailing of these changes, and at its peak in mid morning sun low over the field, the tree literally glowed as if the light came from within. The yellow of the Norway maple in Autumn is really quite remarkable, and has made me stop and look many, many times while at work in the garden.





Recent Notebook

Summer Escaping

Moon Discs: Lunaria Annua

It’s quickly becoming a week of ‘finding other things to do’. While the sky drops buckets at very short intervals I’ve had to resort to residing either within the shed or the greenhouse. Now, as Autumn is set firmly in motion with the first flutters of leaf-drop and the draining of colour all around, the bulk of my heavy seasonal work is also just getting going. I’m one of those gardeners who likes to cram the big jobs in during the end of the year, rather than in the early part of the following year. I prefer to put the garden, as much as is possible, well and truly to bed in Autumn, allowing for a slower and more enjoyable lead up to Spring. This means chopping the borders down, getting the bulbs in, mulching etc. I think it’s a technique or ‘style’ that has hung on in my practices since my days of dreaded garden maintenance employment; swapping the mower for heavy bags of rotted horse-manure for the last push up to Christmas. A couple of years ago this meant mulching in the snow. And so this unprecedented week of downpour hasn’t really come at the best of moments. But then it never does, and there are always jobs waiting to be tackled in these particular periods.

One such ‘shelved’ task is the collecting and sowing of honesty seed – Lunaria annua. I’ve had one eye on my honesty plants for the last couple of months, watching the seed heads dry out and silver to their most recognised form. The seeds inside, in fact, have been clearly ripe for some time, showing through their thin, papery containers. As the rain began to put an end to my morning of cutting back the borders, I decided to finally get round to sowing next year’s honesty in the greenhouse.

I find that nature usually lets you know when the right time to sow has come. From the first Spring flurry of germinated ‘weed seeds’ to the new beginnings of biennial foxgloves in the early Autumn, you’re generally shown when plants are happiest sown. An even more basic rule of thumb states that early flowers (primroses, digitalis, cornflowers, wallflowers) are sown late the previous year, and the later Summer flowers (cosmos, cleome, dahlia, poppy) are sown early in the Spring. Lunaria is in the first category; it’s bright and vibrant pinks and whites forming a welcome display by mid April. So by now (September) the pods are opening up and dropping seed intended to germinate before the cold kicks in, over-Wintering in the beds, ready to flower the following year.

I would say, however, that due to the significant lack in seed pod-cracking sunlight this year, the natural process is a little delayed in getting going. Late-July to August is usually the time to be sowing on your collected Lunaria seeds, at which point they are dry and tough. This explains also the less shimmering, silver appearance to my honesty seed heads this year; the excessive wet making them unlikely to fulfil their annual role in the Christmas dried flower display. Never mind.

Taking the cut stems inside, with radio 4 on the go, I went abut separating the seeds and sowing them into damp compost in nodules.

If the seeds are ripe they will come away from their thin sheeting really easily. They’re held tightly between two layers which can be peeled apart. Each moon-like disk (where the name, ‘Lunaria’ is derived from) will contain somewhere between 3 and 6 seeds. Once sown, they can be covered with a thin layer of compost and placed in a warmish environment (unheated greenhouse or conservatory window is fine) to germinate. Depending on how Autumn develops from here on I will either then plant my seedlings out prior to the deep freeze, or they’ll go out into a cold frame to be planted early next year.

Lunaria annua flowering prolifically in the garden during last Spring