Last week seems a long time ago.
Last week the Sunset Border looked like this.
I didn't plant the mauve-flowered Hibiscus syriacus for its autumn colour, but that burst of gold is lovely, isn't it? The smokebush, Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak', cut to 30cm above the ground every winter, covers itself with large, burgundy leaves throughout spring and summer, then puts on its party clothes in autumn, looking indeed like a sunset all by itself. Even the dying leaves of the daylilies go out in a splash of tawny yellow. On this particular afternoon, the low autumn sun was lighting up the trunk of the peppercorn tree, Schinus molle, showing off its amazing texture. Its leaves turn brown in winter, but most of them hang on the branches until early spring. In the dark days of June and July it looks like a big, shaggy monster. A friendly one. I'm often moved to give it a pat as I walk past. Not everything in winter is bleak.
But I still prefer last week.
Last week the leaves of the Sweet Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua, fluttered in a gentle breeze against a blue, blue sky..
This tree grew as a seedling from one belonging to our neighbours, just beside the fence. When we moved into this house it was only about 2 metres high. The parent tree is gone now, and ours towers alone beside the driveway, a sturdy pyramid that gives me pleasure all year, but especially in autumn.
I long for the beauty of last week.
Last week I noticed how nicely the mix of foliage under the Sweet Gum was growing into a complete, satisfying picture.
Like some of my best garden effects, this was a happy accident. It's true that I planted the oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) and allowed the neighbours' Pittosporum tenuifolium to hang over the fence because I liked its graceful swags against the grey palings. But the palm tree, some sort of windmill palm, I think, planted itself. I have no idea where it came from, but it's the right plant in exactly the right spot, isn't it? I would never have thought of this combination. The palm leaf shape is a nice contrast to the hydrangea even in spring and summer, but the autumn picture is really lovely. I suspect it wants to grow into a 40 metre tree, but I'm going to try to keep it small by cutting off a few branches every year. I'm hoping this will force it to keep shooting from the base rather than forming a trunk. In a few weeks the hydrangea will lose its leaves and the picture will be spoilt.
But it looked wonderful last week.
Last week the sun was sometimes so bright that the sky looked white rather than blue, glaring and making me squint through the leaves as I turned my face upwards to feel the warmth.
I miss last week.