Thursday, September 30, 2010

Twilight in late September

As the sun drops low on the horizon, just enough foliage has fallen to allow bright shafts of sunlight into parts of the garden. Here it's about to disappear behind the roof of the house, casting the near garden into increasing darkness.

Further out in the garden, warm sunset light ignites the grasses--Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerester', Panicum 'Shenandoah', Panicum 'Dallas Blues', Miscanthus purpurescens at back. This is a highly transient phenomenon, passing quickly into shade.

Here the light has shifted to the right, passing across another group of plants--Viburnum, more Panicum 'Shenandoah', Scirpus cyperinus, Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker', Sanguisorba canadense, and further right, an Iris pseudacorus and the foliage of a clump River Birch--then quickly fading...

... into gradual darkness. Amazing to think I'm actually watching the effect of the rotation of the earth in this little spot of garden--such a large thing manifesting in such a small and lovely way.

Now in shade, Sanguisorba flowers against the dried Scirpus cyperinus ...

... and behind, another ray spotlights a fading stand of Joe Pye Weed.

A little sea of grasses, out of the sun now, in muted colors lit by indirect light of the sky ...

Looking across the garden, where the woodland trees catch the last of the sun in their upper branches ...

Now the house glows with the approach of night. Outside, it's actually darker than it appears; my camera is overcompensating for the low light level, as you can see by comparison with the bright incandescent light inside the house.

Soon it will be completely dark. Soon it will be time to go inside and feel cozy.

Miscanthus 'Silberfeder', still like fireworks, even in dimming indirect light ...

The path to the new paved sitting area appears as I move around the garden ... (yes, the stepping stones need realignment) ...

Striking how colorful, in a subdued way, the mixed grasses and perennials can still be ...

as the earth continues to turn the sun under ...

... and the moon brightens in a darker sky.

The garden is made on a piece of earth, composed of soil, water, minerals, plants, built with labor, logic, and much emotion (passion perhaps?), but much more than that, composed too of space, mass and void, the very air we breath. It's the earth, the sun, the day, the night. Both motion and stillness.


  1. James, your garden is really beautiful and these pictures are stunning. I don't often comment but I have been reading your blog over a few years now and I just want to say how much I appreciate it. With the magic of the internet and your generosity in sharing, I and many others have been able to 'watch' the transformation of your garden. I really like your new paths, I hope they add as much to the garden as they do to the photographs.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  2. Dear James, you transport us to your world slowly turning of magical grasses and poetic phrases. To watch the lift move across the fallscape is one thing, to read your description of it takes us to another plane of conciousness. I cannot imagine having a garden with such a water table as yours, we are the opposite here on my steep slope, although it too is clay. And yet we grow many of the same plants, like the Miscanthus. I do love the view of the lighted house from a darkening garden, warm and welcoming. Thank you for taking us there. :-)

  3. James,
    Things seem to get better and better as the season progresses! Have you lowered the square steps into the gravel? All the textures are terrific.

  4. It was wonderful to see twilight fade in your garden through these beautiful pictures. You've managed to capture the essence of the changing light at this time of year with both your pictures and your words.

  5. What totally stunning pictures. I have just overcome a lifetime's prejudice against grasses and bought my first (persuaded by my dear friend at Artist's Garden). This blog is making me feel even more sure that I was right to change my mind!

  6. These early (and short) autumn evenings fill me up for an entire year. They are so crisp, the light so true, the moments so brief that the time spent is worth its weight in gold. Or platinum. I've been enjoying the hundreds of diverse insects at my asters, caryopteris, and goldenrods these last few days--so many galaxies moving in an out of each other without ever touching and hardly knowing how close they are. So like us all. Which should makes us feel mroe connected to nature, but it works the opposite way, I suppose.

  7. This is the time of year that the grasses really come into their own, and I am sure your garden must be wonderful with them right now. I am envious that you have room to do them right - in groups, where I have to enjoy drifts of one.

  8. Sylvia,
    I hope the paths add as much to the garden as to the photographs. Photos don't always communicate the reality, and I wonder about that myself. How much is real and how much is a fiction? I appreciate your comment and your telling me you've followed the development of my garden.

  9. Frances,
    Thank you so much for your kind comments. You may know that I use Rudbeckia maxima as a theme plant in my garden. I read that its origin is the border of Texas and Arkansas, in a rather dry environment. Yet it thrives in my wet clay, so I'm not surprised you and I grow many of the same plants, even though you garden on a well drained hillside and I, a rather flat wetland.

  10. Michael,
    Yes, the concrete pavers are in the gravel. Of course, I now need to pull some of them up and reset them to get the alignment right!

  11. Ginny,
    Your comment confirms my post communicated something of my feelings. Thank you. I appreciate your visit.

  12. elizabethm,
    I was aware that you didn't care for grasses (I read your blog), so I'm very curious what grass you have chosen for your garden.

  13. Benjamin,
    I've noticed a marked increase in the number of Monarchs this year. Last year, there were virtually none. I don't know what this bodes for the future, if anything. It may simply be accident. Interesting, the lesson you seem to take from the insects.

  14. Les,
    I was noticing just today that my garden, in the previous post, looks much larger in the "full scene" photos than it actually is, and thinking I want it to be larger. I should be satisfied

  15. Dear James,
    I am enchanted. It's beautiful!

  16. Kata,
    Thank you. I feel much the same about your serene--perhaps I should say spiritual--garden.

  17. Hi James,
    I've been wanting to add the sanguisorba canadensis to my garden here in SE PA. Do you remember your source?
    I really enjoy your blog, even though I've only "lurked" until now.

  18. Hi, Matthew -
    I've actually found it in local nurseries from time to time. But it's available from Busse Gardens nursery on line. You can just google the name. Or, if you live near me, I can give you some starts. I'm located near Stockton, NJ, in the New Hope, PA, area. Let me know if you're near, and we can work out getting you some.



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