Nieman's or the Garden? Fall '11 Collection

It started raining here in Marin yesterday--on the early side, but wet was welcome after I had planted so much during the week prior.  Today is a bit incongruous: the sun is shining with golden, soft light; it seems like a new place after the chilly, soaking rain of yesterday.  At least two more inches this week.  
Fall has come upon me quickly here.  Summer doesn’t hit hard until September and the shorter days are only obvious in the bendy late-summer light, which just makes everything seem dry and dreamy.  So summer had just shown up, all casual smiles, when I ran out of daylight planting by 7:00 pm (Petzl headlamps are best for gardeners).  And it’s been genuinely humid (as distinct from the fog).  There are gusty blasts that send the burnt Liquidambar leaves to the ground, and the lanky poplars have taken on autumnal banana hues as they white-knuckle it in the wind blowing down Mt. Tam.  I was at an afternoon soiree in Ross on Sunday and we had the firepit going.  Our lovely hostess offered blankets as the sun started dropping behind the Redwoods. I thus noticed Autumn here in Marin...

Right now, I’m at a coffee shop and I’m watching suburban teens self-consciously strutting their new Fall boots and sloppily strewn scarves.  They know it’s Fall because Urban Outfitters is stuffed with all the right accessories that scream: Autumn, pumpkin lattes, boyfriends.  The young gents have grown their hair a little shaggier to accompany the right hoodie and worn cords.   The girls hope it stays refreshingly chilly so they don’t have to obscure their jeggings in boots under bulky coats.   We gardeners see autumnal accessorizing all around us.  Tricyrtis blooms are strewn over the shoulder of a border like an ample scarf.  The amber light is the cosmetic bronzer coating everything in a lusty glow.  Glints of gold casually adorn the leaves; brown tones are welcome, whereas in June we took the same hue in our garden as indication of blight or drought.  We don’t want to see garish Encore Azaleas; they are the horticultural equivalent of white shoes after Labor Day (and definitely NOT in any fashion-forward or winter white kind of styling).

Perhaps we garden to understand the passage of time.  To have this color, this moment, this bench to savor and to enjoy when Time comes to ravage all our silly plans--in our gardens and otherwise.  We are able pace the changing days: they are punctuated by the drying seed heads borne on brittle fall stems, the rustle in the grasses as the birds, cued by the shortened light, the night temperatures and their DNA, head for retreat… And still I cling to each season, saying…I’m not ready yet...

So in a garden I come to accept that it wasn’t the perfect summer season: I would’ve rather had more alliums dancing on the edges of borders; I would’ve liked that palm to be bigger so that it can screen up over the fence; I would’ve have liked to have harvested all of the beans before the slugs got after them...I would have liked, I would have liked..., ..., ...  Instead we place bulb orders now, ogling perfect pictures of Narcissus 'Niveth', designer Leucojums, and subtle species tulips...we sow seeds for biennials and cool season vegetables with visions of spilly borders of Campanula and Delphinium, fresh salads from our bumper crop of arugula, and cool drinks under the Schinus molle that we’re hoping will shoot out some serious growth with the rains to come.  We get to do both; we praise our garden's inimitable fall accessorizing; still we plan, purchase, and plant with our hearts yearning for better glories in next spring's fashions. 

Here is a look at a little of what I’ve been up to: a serene deck in Ross, CA.  Shots in better light and pics of Mill Valley courtyard shots to follow.   Pots are from Garden Pots Marin in San Rafael.

I'm working with little microclimates within the containers themselves.  There are pockets of bright sun on the deck, but it's surrounded by house and Redwoods, so I can use the blue Phlebodium pseudoaureum fern blocked by the Phormium and the bromeliad especially shaded by the Dicksonia.

Begonia dramatic


  1. Holy S! What beautiful pics and phenomenal work! You got me hooked. I love the way you write and your take on the wonderful world of garden design. Will be back!

  2. Thanks...please do! I just found your blog today too and was all over it...cheers!

  3. Oh my succulent gorgeous! I'm in love with our Begonia luxurians.

  4. Megan...thanks! Isn't it so brilliant...I got one for myself too!


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