October Light

The picture I took of the sky this morning does not really capture that glowing gold and pink light that warmed everything in the landscape it touched. October skies have those moments that can take your breath away.  This beautiful light blew in like a sudden squall-I could see it would not last long.    

The field next door was awash in pink gold light.  So beautiful!  The intense quality of light in a sunny summer garden is very different than the filtered light of a spring shade garden.  The flat light that characterizes our gray Michigan weather is a far cry from this golden fall light.  When you design, think about what light will do for, or in spite of, your composition.

Light dramatically affects the appearance of a garden or landscape.  I read, and I look at no end of photographs of landscapes.  A landscape photographed under that very special and ephemeral October light looks dramatically different than a landscape photographed in the glare of the summer sun, or the gloomy light of winter.  Plan for both. 

I do think light is a key element in good landscape design.  Dark areas may ask for chartreuse leaves or white flowers.  Bright areas may ask for something entirely different.  Dark foliage and shapes may benefit from a sunny placement.  Great landscapes stand up to, and engage whatever light is the daily special.  In any event, a consideration of the light, no matter the season, should play a considerable part in the design process.  When I photograph a garden or landscape, I wait for that natural light that will make for the best picture.  But I cannot count on that light for more than a moment. 

The nicotiana in the shop garden has been delightful since late May.  Who knows why the planting was never plagued by aphids.  I amazed that they did not go out of bloom entirely during this summer’s scorching heat.  This level of investment in nicotiana was in spite of my better judgment.  Who has any idea how a plant will fare in any given summer season?  I bought a ticket with no options for a change or upgrade. I was lucky.  The nicotiana still looks beautiful.  In the light this morning, this mass of nicotiana looked great.  I was faithful about the water, and the care, but how they look in mid October-much about the nature of the season and the low light.

Our farmer’s market was similarly endowed by the gorgeous October light this morning.  Every pumpkin was on fire-irresistable in form and color.  Light does an incredible job of describing forms.  Hve the idea to assess the effect of light?  Look at your landscape every day, in all kinds of weather.  A tree viewed from the front side of the light appears incredibly different than a tree which is back lit. The low angle and intensity of the early morning golden light made everything in my immediate view look good-vibrant and juicy.    

Julie’s Floral at the Oakland County Farmer’s Market specializes in fine and unusual 4″ plant material, water plants, vines, dahlias, and topiary plants from the very beginning of the market summer season to the end.  They also grow cutting flowers.  The light this morning made their flowers glow.  Did I buy?  Oh yes.     

This group of pumpkin stacks looked especially good this morning. A stack of pumpkins is not so much my thing, though I would applaud the sculptural look of a 10 or 30 of stacks.  Set level, and in a shape or arrangement that enchanted my eye.  Some expression asks for lots. The sculptural look of these stacks this morning was much about the light.  

Chinese lanterns, or Physalis, mature in October.  Their color ranges from gold to intense orange.  Given the gold light this morning, I could not take my eyes off of them.  They glowed orange.  The rectangular shape and pale green color of the stems, in contrast to those orange lanterns, tell an engaging visual tale about the fall garden.   

Fall asters-their willing bloom and clear color make them a favorite in a fall garden.  This morning they were achingly beautiful.  That October light made me want to take all of them home. 

Marlene had bunches of peppers suitable for drying for sale this morning.  She is a first rate grower, horticulturist, and farmer.  She is an outstanding gardener and grower.  I can count on finding what I never expected from her.  The colors of her peppers were so brilliantly saturated.  Laying eyes on these bunches made me so glad that I had gotten up early.  How any gardener chooses to light their garden, and their gardening life- extraordinarily important.