Autumn in the gardens

A photographic view of the garden with accompaniment from the card box

After the first really autumnal weekend, a quick look at my two gardens. Into the physical autumn garden here in Wuppertal and a look into my box of notes, in which some things have also matured on the subject of autumn in summer.

This autumn has been quite something. By that, of course, I mean the excessively high temperatures and the warmer-than-average weather for this time of year. Yes, you could be happy about it, but my joy gets stuck in my throat when I read that in a few decades the Rhine could almost dry up, that there could be more drought, more flooding, more disaster.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, we still have the right and the duty to enjoy the everyday, because it means continuing to look to the future with courage rather than brokenness. I also write this a little to myself. In order to preserve ourselves and nature, we urgently need to change many things and, above all, rediscover our love of nature, without which we would not exist. It will help us to do without many things that we always think we know we need. The world is beautiful, still is, and beauty can be found in the big and the small.

Beauty is not a question of size or comparison. Christian Morgenstern wrote that it is in the eye of the beholder. That is certainly true, but it is not everything. Beauty can be still (Hawthorne), beauty is rhythm (Morgenstern), beauty is the harmony of all parts (Leon Battista Alberti) and Tanizaki Jun'ichiro says in Praise of the Shadow that what is called beautiful usually arises from the practice of daily life. That's why I'm also in the garden. Not every day, but very often. More often for years. And just as much in my inner garden, my note box.

It is a great luxury of my current life that I have the time to crawl deep down the rabbit hole when it comes to certain issues. I started by trying to understand the architectural ideas of the Renaissance, now I'm reading up on American Regionalism and English Romanticism. Why?

Because this literature, in its loving glorification of nature, has a lot to say to us again. Because, as we realise in our society, even if we know everything about nature, it is still not enough to change something really fundamental: our relationship with it, which we should treat in the same way as our relationship with people. With consideration, respect, prudence, appreciation, sustainability, humanity and love.

Reading this book over the past year has significantly contributed to changing and enriching my everyday view of nature and the world. In a positive way.

Thoughts also need to be cultivated, planted, fertilised, nurtured and cared for. Not every thought is fully useful - just like colourful and delicious chard, for example - we also need the flowers and other ornamental plants in our heads that only exist for their grace. This is another reason why the many notes on beauty and nature in my note box are so important.

Summer still shines in bright colours

Autumn in the garden

Not much is flowering in the garden any more. This is also due to the fact that all attempts to plant autumn asters have failed due to our rather impermeable Geilenkirchen clay soil. All but a small blob of the coneflower has gone and its song is a longing look back to a long summer. On the other hand, the coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm') has not given up; in its niche it shines with all its strength against the cloudy grey autumn sky and looks as if the first rough nights had never happened. Next to it, the fat hen (Sedum telephium 'Herbstfreude') has established itself and lives up to its name. With a broad brush, it paints the garden a beautiful pink, which is now slowly turning into an old rose and would do any salon proud.

Autumn in the gardens - Summer fades, but the sunflower blooms into October
Summer fades, but the sunflower blooms into October

How tempting are land, orchard, hill, garden (...)

Man feels the blood of thousands in his body. And the heart pumps the sap of this whole forest of plants through his veins. Here is work for him and a most willing labourer.

R.W. Emerson : Tagebücher, S. 545

I have harvested the wine, the rosehips go to the birds.
I have harvested the wine, the rosehips go to the birds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered the greatest philosopher of 19th century North America.Throughout his life - which lasted from 1803 to 1882 - he kept a diary.The publisher wrote about the book: «Emerson jotted down fragments of poems, aphorisms, philosophical observations, reports of his experiences and essay drafts - an inexhaustible cornucopia of stimulating thoughts about nature, history, democracy, man and his possibilities of educating himself and meeting the challenges of the day.» I have been reading his diary entries every day since 14 February 2023.

Quelle: Matthes & Seitz Berlin

I am grateful for the numerous blueberry bushes that have proudly shot up in the meantime.In autumn, they provide the blue-orange border in front with a reddish, vibrant theatre curtain (unfortunately I didn't take a photo of this).Autumn and autumn leaves. They belong together. A bonfire of colours. A reason to go for walks in the woods. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about this in his diary on 24 September 1839 at the age of 36:

You are wise, O you old forests!...

... wiser than man.Whoever walks on your paths or in your thickets, where no paths lead, reads the same happy lesson, whether he is an infant or a centenarian. You say the same thing from aeon to aeon, whether he comes in happiness or in misfortune. Always the needles of the pines grow and fall, the acorns of the oaks, the maples redden in autumn, and in all seasons flat lycopodium & wintergreen bud & take root down on the ground. What people call fate and what they call time - you don't know it. (...) That is why I would like to ask you, you sacred forests: give me something to say again, give me the melody too. Give me your own melody, which is like your wind, your rain, your streams, your birds;

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, und Brôcan, Jürgen (Hrsg., Übers.) : Tagebücher; Page 320

Fette Henne, Sedum telephium 'Herbstfreude'
Fette Henne, Sedum telephium 'Herbstfreude'

Nature has its own melody, and in autumn the sound becomes heavier and the rhythm slower. As a natural philosopher and transcendentalist, Emerson endeavoured in his thoughts and reflections to develop a new understanding of nature, to find new and alternative ways of thinking, writing and living.

In fact, the ornamental sage is still blooming in the garden, having recovered magnificently after being pruned in the summer. The warm weather certainly helped too. The same warm weather also brought our winter bell apple tree to a second bloom. This is actually the first time in my life that I have seen an apple tree flower a second time.

Der Sonnenhut strahlt noch im Oktober gegen den grauen Himmel an
Der Sonnenhut strahlt noch im Oktober gegen den grauen Himmel an

John Muir (1838 – 1914)

John Muir was a Scottish-American natural philosopher and autodidact. He was a co-founder of the oldest and largest nature conservation organisation in the United States, the Sierra Club, founded in San Francisco in 1892. John Muir was also the first president of the conservation organisation. Today the club has around 10,000 members. At the age of 29, he hiked from Kentucky to Florida and wrote a diary about it: »Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf«. John Muir is no longer uncontroversial since racist entries were found in some of his diaries. I am currently reading his book: »Any fool can destroy trees«.

How good it feels to be in the garden

All nature is thoughtful and quiet.

This is what the American naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club John Muir wrote in his diary on 8 September 1867. I had already used part of it in my post 1000 notes. I have translated part of the entry like this:

John Muir

Amid the wide waves of green wood there are spots of autumnal yellow and the atmosphere, too, has the dawnings of autumn in colors and sounds. The soft light of morning falls upon ripening forests of oak and elm, walnut and hickory, and all Nature is thoughtful and calm.

Source: Thousand- Mile Walk to the Gulf, Seite 14

Isn't that beautifully written? Muir (1838 - 1914) wrote it in his diary as he walked 1000 miles from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. A worthwhile read, I think. Muir was a gifted writer and was to become a fervent advocate of nature conservation in the USA. Recent research shows that he also overstepped boundaries when it came to nature conservation; racist remarks about indigenous people or black people are documented in his diaries. On the other hand, he repeatedly emphasised the equality of people regardless of gender and origin in his writings.

Curry herb or more beautiful: Italian immortelle
Curry herb or more beautiful: Italian immortelle

Back to the garden.

Curry herb (Helichrysum italicum), also known as Italian immortelle, is an evergreen, woody perennial from the Mediterranean region. As the name suggests, the plant smells strongly of curry.When cut correctly, it produces an abundance of button-shaped yellow flowers.However, its leaves are still a beautiful sight in autumn. We have an orange-flowering montbretia (Crocosmia aurea) growing directly behind it, but we have also planted a reddish-flowering one nearby, which provides a lovely contrast to the dark, almost blue ornamental sage in summer.

The already autumnal foliage of the montbretia
The already autumnal foliage of the montbretia

Contrast is also important for beauty, as is grace, an expression that unfortunately only rarely enriches our language, but is so appropriate in summer, for example, for the blossoming montbretias gently swaying in the wind. We still mostly see grace and gracefulness in dance and movement.It has a long tradition, from the Renaissance we know grace as beauty carved in stone.During this period, the contraposto, or simply put, the figurative foot, developed into the ideal image in sculpture.The Italian diplomat and poet Baldassare Castiglione (1478 - 1529) wrote about grace: »Grace cannot be learnt.« What a claim. But also fitting, because a dancer either has it or they don't. Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury even believed that there could be a kind of moral grace, a moral grace. Something I could still explore. It certainly seems worthwhile, as Shaftesbury was known for his positive outlook on life and his optimistic view of humanity. Ralph Waldo Emerson also knew that there is something behind the beauty of the forest and nature, noting that behind the beauty of  »right action«, the whole beauty of the forest is »cold and unfeeling«. (R.W. E : Tagebücher p. 164)

In any case, it is worth paying attention to different shapes and structures in the no longer so colourful autumn garden.How much they differ and what a variety of structures and shapes plants offer us.

The small rose hips of the flowering wonder Rambling Rector are also a beautiful sight in autumn, see also the article on the history of this rose.
The small rose hips of the flowering wonder Rambling Rector are also a beautiful sight in autumn, see also the article on the history of this rose.

We have left plenty of fruit for the birds for the winter. The Rambling Rector produces hundreds of small rose hips, in which the blackbirds in particular feel very comfortable from the first frost.

An anderer Stelle schrieb Ralph Waldo Emerson

I often felt, as I walked through the woods, that nothing could happen to me in life, no misfortune, no dishonour (if only my eyes were left open), for which nature offered no gentle consolation.

Source: R.W.E; Tagebücher P. 182

The world demands a lot from us at the moment. I find comfort in looking at and working in the garden. Emerson wrote that the garden is an honest place, and while working in it, all frustration and anger would fall away. But a garden is not nature in the true sense of the word, it is cultivated nature. There are only a few places in Europe where truly unspoilt, primeval nature exists, and it is under massive threat, for example in Poland. What we perceive as nature outside our gardens is mostly afforested forest, one or twenty generations ago. A garden is always artificial, the result of culture, and I believe we should recognise this and design it with intention. This applies to our flower and vegetable garden as well as to my note box, my mental garden. Emerson wrote, »My garden is my dictionary.« My box of notes is my second garden, and it inspires me and my language, it radiates into my heart.

Lady's mantle (Alchemilla) with beading water droplets
Lady's mantle (Alchemilla) with beading water droplets

Sophia & Nathaniel Hawthorne

Die Hawthornes waren direkte Nachbarn Ralph Waldo Emersons in Concord Massachusetts. Zwei Jahre lang führten sie ein gemeinsames Tagebuch und es ist ein Vergnügen ihre täglichen Lebens- und Naturbetrachtungen aus diesen verschiedenen Perspektiven heraus zu lesen. Sophia Peabody Hawthorne war eine Autorin und Illustratorin, Nathaniel Hawthorne gilt als Autor der dunklen Romantik in den USA, sein bekanntestes Werk ist »Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe«, mehrfach verfilmt, unter anderem 1973 von Wim Wenders mit Senta Berger. Vom Roman liegen verschiedene Übersetzungen vor, die aktuellste stammt vom Übersetzer der Tageücher Ralph Waldo Emersons, von Jürgen Brôcan.

And the same applies to our small garden behind our house; with its open location to the south-west, the soil and location provide us with the best conditions for good luck and plenty of fruit and some vegetables. Harvest time is now over. Emerson's friend and neighbour Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864), perhaps best known for his book "The Scarlet Letter", wrote remarkable words about the great happiness of sowing and harvesting in the diary he kept with his wife:

Sophia & Nathaniel Hawthorne

I love watching the successive development of each new vegetable and noting its daily growth, which never ceases to amaze me.It's as if something is being created before my eyes and with my help.(...) and among the pure and exclusively earthly pleasures, there are few that are more innocent and harmless.

Source: Hawthorne, Sophia & Nathaniel : Das Paradies der kleinen Dinge; P. 44

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden.When I was in my grandmother's village in the Sauerland region a few years ago, I realised that not many people bothered to have their own vegetable garden anymore.But they could. And those who would like to, can't. What a topsy-turvy world.

All notes on the subject of beauty or that indirectly touch on the subject of beauty. My work in Ralph Waldo Emerson's diaries (Matthes und Seitz, 2022) is coloured dark green, other notes with various sources are purple. People are coloured yellow, red are slips of paper on the subject of form ever follows function, the architectural theory of architect Louis Sullivan. The grey dots in the box of notes pose a certain danger; I don't yet have any in-depth knowledge about them. They appear when I link to a term but do not research it further.
All notes on the subject of beauty or that indirectly touch on the subject of beauty. My work in Ralph Waldo Emerson's diaries (Matthes und Seitz, 2022) is coloured dark green, other notes with various sources are purple. People are coloured yellow, red are slips of paper on the subject of form ever follows function, the architectural theory of architect Louis Sullivan. The grey dots in the box of notes pose a certain danger; I don't yet have any in-depth knowledge about them. They appear when I link to a term but do not research it further.
The gardening year comes to an end

The note box continues


Obsidian is a notepad software or knowledge database based on Markdown files. You can create individual "notes" in this knowledge database and link them to others. The most important tools are tags, as known from Wordpress or other blogs, and links. I wrote my first note on 29 August 2022 and I love the connections that exist and develop between this first note and my current entry. Obsidian is the ideal platform for me as a gardener to organise my thoughts and notes and to gain context from them. I had already posted my 1000 notes post on this.

Weiter zum Beitrag im Blog: 1000 Zettel

We can no longer avoid autumn, summer really has come to an end. And while the only thing left to do in the garden is pruning, and perhaps a last dose of fertiliser for the small lawns, the work and pleasure continues in the note box. That's where I found the beginning of this beautiful poem by John Keats (1795 - 1821):

An den Herbst

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Source :John Keats in : Ein Ding von Schönheit ist ein Glück auf immer; P. 465

The greatest happiness is right in front of us. In the people we love and who love us, with a little luck. My note box is already a constant source from which it bubbles up. And the garden is work and joy. It has taken almost 18 years to wrest this garden from the bare ground, piece by piece, now we are entering the chocolatey phase, it is pleasure.

According to Keats: A thing of beauty is happiness forever.

tl, dr;

In meinen Gedanken zum Garten vermischen sich Pflanzen und mein Zettelkasten.

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