The robins have appeared out of nowhere, singing their wistful, melancholy songs of autumn from hidden corners of the garden. Summer’s only just got going but the signs of change are all around.
The bright pink balloons of phlox are beginning to fade, and the lavender is turning brown. The evening primrose is nothing but straggly seedheads and even the heleniums are past their prime.
The buddleia is on its way out, after a summer entertaining butterflies – peacocks, tortoiseshells, red admirals and gatekeepers. The beautiful bee-friendly allium sphaerocephalon has packed away its purple flowerheads for another year and only brown pollen-free shells are left. The vibrant red splash that was crocosmia Lucifer has come and gone too.
Now it’s the turn of rudbeckias and hibiscus to shine. Japanese anemones are going strong too, flowering at head height in a corner with almost no light at all. They’ve crept in under the fence and made themselves at home, thank you very much. Gertrude Jekyll has a second flush of beautifully scented, exquisitely carved roses and the self-grown golden rod is in its prime.
For all its heralding of a season of harshness and decay, I love the autumn. It’s a season of change, of the first chilly air on your face and of the grass heavy with dew in the morning. Later the leaves will change into their autumn collection of colours too, but it’s the first subtle hints that I love.
We’re bidding farewell to one of the oddest summers ever: the wettest early part of the season since records began, a drought before that, and a stop-start August. Who knows what kind of a winter the autumn is ushering in. Maybe the robins’ song is partly a prayer to ward off the worst.