“When Falling Asleep” – an Autumnal Swansong.

After my last long post, heavy on history, this one is much shorter on words, and more garden focused.

It begins with a tribute to Jessye Norman, singing below the third of Richard Strauss’ wonderful Four Last Songs – Beim Schlafengehen (When Falling Asleep”). The American soprano died about a fortnight ago, and although I’ve featured the second song “September” in a post a couple of years ago, this one is equally beautiful. Click here for an obituary, in The New York Times, for the hugely talented and popular Ms. Norman.

I’d suggest starting the You Tube below, and then slowly scrolling through the pictures taken this week, which are indeed an autumnal swansong from the garden here. If you like the music, here’s a link, click, to the classic recording made by Ms. Norman with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, conducted by Kurt Masur.

In spite of having a very disappointing last 4 weeks of weather, with only 1 day without rain, we have had brief sunny interludes, and autumn colour still seems to be developing well.

Is it just me, or do others enjoy autumn more as they get older? 

It seems that every day brings new colours and shades. Some subtle, some vibrant and we’re now fortunate to have several trees and shrubs coming into their prime and creating ever more impact year on year. The drama goes on for several weeks, for which we’re really grateful – a consequence of our benign climate here and several seed grown Acers which, by chance, colour up sequentially over a prolonged period. And always, without early frosts, the white froth of Saxigrage fortunei to complement the fireworks.

Even in poor light and although the dreary month of November looms, this is a wonderful time to pause.

To look and see.

As the garden prepares to rest a while.

And so too can the gardeners.

Click here for more background to how Strauss came to compose this beautiful series of songs, which was intended to include a fifth, but he never heard them performed, dying before he could compose the last one, at the age of 85. The series was premiered in 1950 at the Royal Albert Hall, in part thanks to the generosity of the Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar Bahudar, who put up the huge guarantee of $4,800 for the performance, so that they could be recorded, and he could receive a copy of the concert, since he was unable to attend in person.

For anyone interested we might try to hold a final garden “pop up” opening of 2019 next weekend, but we’ll wait a while to see how the weather forecast progresses. 

If you’re not already on our email list for pop up openings, and would like to come next weekend if we do open, I’d suggest emailing us now to let us know of your interest:




17 thoughts on ““When Falling Asleep” – an Autumnal Swansong.

  1. A fine blend of art and nature (though there is a lot of art in making nature look so good and taking such excellent pictures).

  2. Oh Julian…Autumn in one post! Wonderful photos with the light, colour and shapes all so perfectly…autumn! Thank goodness you are a photographer to capture all those images brilliantly so we can enjoy all those views too…thank you.

  3. We are too far away to visit but I enjoyed my autumnal virtual visit. You have an astounding variety of plants and places and colours! I pondered the question of appreciating autumn colours more when you age as I have found this to be true of myself. I think I was always too disappointed to see summer pass and the dark days and school looming ahead to appreciate the pretty colours of leaves around me. Appreciating gardens and autumn walks came later in life. Amelia

    • Hello Amelia,
      Thanks for that – I suspect we’ll get very few actual visitors this weekend, but I do think in the dry it’s as lovely as any time of the year, and changes as quickly as late spring. Interesting too that you appreciate gardens and autumn more now than when you were younger… I wonder how widespread this is, either amongst gardeners, or the general public? BTW D. mercks in the post today…
      Click here for my advice on what to do with them!
      best wishes

  4. Hi Julian, I read your post with absolute longing to see it again. I am working this coming weekend and see the forecast is foul here for Saturday but better on Sunday, I hope if you do open there will be dry weather at least. In the meantime I am enjoying your photographs. Colours here in Gloucestershire are still on the cusp of turning, rather than ablaze, we have not had any really cold nights yet. Bit optimistic/romantic to say gardeners rest in winter, I bet you have lots to do!

    • Hello Julie,
      Thanks for the comment ….there’s always 2020… We’re forecact 60 mm plus rain in the next 24 hours so a fair bit of this week has been spent doing preparatory track work to avoid losing most of our roadstone – clearing chevrons and the central channel.
      But at least Sunday’s looking fine though cold, at last…
      I hope the strong winds today don’t strip all the coloured leaves off, but there’s still the gorgeous Saxifrage froth which is fine unless frosts hit.
      At least the days are shorter in the winter months, so you can’t keep going for as long outside! Plus I’ve just worked out a title for a new talk based on “cross overs” between wildflower meadows and naturalistic garden planting ecology/communities which I have to get finished for a first showing in February – That’s certainly going to keep me busy. Hope you enjoy the quieter winter months too
      Best wishes

  5. So sad to hear Ms. Norman has died. Way too early. What a beautiful voice.
    Thank you for sharing these lovely garden photographs, the birds and the vistas. Autumn is so quiet and peaceful.

  6. I don’t need to get older to appreciate autumn. I have always liked it, perhaps because it is so subtle here. The brilliant colors of the Pacific Northwest are rare here, and even more scarce farther south.

      • New England is famous famous for such color, and much of North America is quite colorful. However, in our region, almost all of the best color is from exotic trees too. There is even less in Southern California. Sweetgum is somewhat popular in Los Angeles, even though we all know it is not the best of trees for urban situation, because it happens to be one of the most reliable for autumn color in mild climates. Most Californians do not appreciate such color, but somehow, a few of us do.

      • Thanks Tony, Glad you’re one of the few… Do you know Sorbus sargentiana? Every year it’s our most reliable tree for autumn colour, a little later than some others, but whatever the weather it sets the scene on fire. Our is gradually getting bigger. We’ve had no luck with sweetgums here, maybe because it’s too wet – the roots seem to give way and the trees fall over after a few years.
        Still you can’t win ’em all,
        best wishes

      • Too wet?! Wow, ours do well in saturated lawns. (Most lawns that are ‘maintained’ by so-called ‘gardeners’ are saturated . . . even though we are supposed to conserve water.) The main problem I observe with sweetgum is structural deficiency.
        There are no sorbus here. I got a pair of seedlings (or cuttings) of mountain ash, Sorbus americana, because I want to see what I can do with the fruit. There might be a few that mysteriously appeared at work, but I do not know what they are yet. So far, I have not been impressed by their color. They just are not big enough to get enough exposure to cold air to color well. I will be watching though.

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