Low and warm, the autumnal light sculpts the landscape of plants into a deep, three-dimensional screen. Backlit grasses and foliage glow, and sparks of light reflected through long irregular interstices give the garden a power lost almost totally when the day turns glum and cloudy.
Even a mostly dead, decaying False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa) with translucent red berries quickens with new life when brushed by the sun’s low yellow glaze.
This was the problem much of last Saturday, during the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour, when clouds predominated. The garden can be appreciated without the direct rays of the sun, but it’s something entirely different as you can see in the dull photo below. A jolt of sunlight would energize this Panicum ‘Cloud Nine’ and delineate its fine detail in gold.
Without sun, the garden is best in some extreme state of weather–fog or frost or ice–but that’s yet to come.
Here’s what light does.
As Anne Wareham once wrote to me, “We garden with light.” This is what sunlight did not do during my Garden Conservancy Open Days tour last Saturday.
Three views looking through plants backlit by sunlight … Here a view of Marc Rosenquist’s bronze through Filipendula rubra. I naturally prefer the complexity created looking through screens of plants, though I don’t know why. It emphasizes the abstract, sculptural quality of the garden. Perhaps it appeals to a sense of refuge.
This winter I’ll build a small deck so guests can sit looking out across the length of the pond.