There is no gardener in the world who does not worship spring like a pagan.
–Philippa Gregory, Earthly Joys
In the last days of August, the weather is often sultry and still. After a long, hot summer, we feel ready for the cooler, brisker days that fall brings. This year on Vancouver Island, our summer didn’t really get started until early August, and far from yearning for an end to the dog days, most of us are hoping that we will get an Indian summer. The ocean fogs have been rolling in as they usually do in August; in fact, this is such a regular annual occurrence that locals call the month “Fogust”.
The feeling I get at summer’s end is the reverse of my mood at the beginning of spring, when I am not only happy that winter is over, but also full of delight that I am at the very beginning of the best part of the year. In spring, the prospect is one of lengthening days and rising temperatures. The endless cold, rain and mud will give way to long summer evenings bathed in golden light. But in fall, it is the very opposite: soon, the nights will be long and the hours of daylight will be impossibly short. The sky will be grey and the cats will track mud into the house every time they come in, which they will want to do constantly because the rug in front of the fireplace is so much more alluring than the cold, damp outdoors.
Worst of all, there will be no flowers. I know you must be thinking that I am being melodramatic. After all, there are hothouse flowers available all year long. But, in winter the world outside is bare of ornament, all is muted, colourless and drear. Buying flowers to display inside the house can be delightful, but the house is already decorated: pictures hanging on the wall, carpets on the floor, lamps casting a warm glow. No, I am thinking of the loss of that warm season pastime: to walk through my own garden, taking note of each spash of bright colour; or to stroll through the neighbourhoods of Victoria, intrigued by the offerings of the gardens I pass. Sometimes, I take a photograph, stealing flowers in image only, and sometimes these flowers may appear in a painting, alone or in combination with flowers from my own garden. Thus, I can make a garden that is both more and less ephemeral than the ones I walk by: a garden that exists only in the imaginary world of the painting; a garden whose colour will last through the winter.