Legends of the fall: The golden, dying sunlight of autumn makes even drying seedheads look spectacular

Dylan Thomas said we should rage against the dying of the light. Though I can imagine many of us feel like stomping at the very least while the autumn nights get shorter, the dying of the light does have some advantages. As winter draws in, the sun moves through a lower arc in the sky, and light angles in the garden become much longer and more golden, lighting up leaves and drying seedheads as dusk approaches. And as we move closer to the winter solstice, the sun doesn't just travel a lower ' path across the sky, it also rises and sets further to the south every day, narrowing the angle from which sunlight appears.

It's worth thinking about how to use this soft seasonal light. In The Morville Hours, last year's surprise horticultural bestseller about the evolution of Katherine Swift's Shropshire plot, Swift explained how she wanted to mark out the sun's winter journey in the garden itself. This doesn't have to mean building a mini-Stonehenge. Simply marking the point on your fence every week where the sun is rising and setting gives you a sundial-like sense of its movement across the sky. It also gives you something to celebrate when it starts to move back again.

Even if you don't fancy a bit of new-age druidism, you can still enjoy the light itself. Tidying up the garden is a great temptation this time of year, but leave spiky seedheads such as eryngiums, cardoons and echinops for dramatic backlit silhouettes. Even garden herbs such as fennel will provide tracery for autumn sunshine and morning dew. Spider's webs are another free October treat, lighting up the garden with their silvery traces.

Plants with strong autumn colour, such as acers, the little maples, look especially good with the low light shining through their leaves. It's worth working out exactly where the sunshine will be coming from before planting autumn-colour plants, to maximise the range of shades you'll see. Think about what time of day you'll be using the garden, then try to plant so the sunshine will backlight the leaves. Every vein comes into true focus.

Finally, make sure you actually get out into the garden this time of year. There's nothing like the fresh smell of morning in October, as leaves begin to rot down and the cycle begins again. At Foxhanger in Somerset, pictured on page 25, designer James Alexander- Sinclair used gravel as a base, which allows remaining seedheads to self-sow next year's generation of small plants. Verbascums, the gorgeous grass stipa tenuissima, and bronze fennel all run promiscuous through the flowerbeds. And if there's one thing guaranteed to warm us through a long winter, it's that promise of new growth to come.

Five gardens to visit: Where to catch the spectacle of autumn

Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

Dramatic silhouettes provided by the monastic ruins, and beautiful reflections in the water gardens of neighbouring Studley Royal all add up to a wonderful day out. On 11 October, Denise Carter of the Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group will take a fungus foray, giving collecting and cooking advice.

www.fountains abbey.org.uk

Stourhead, Wiltshire

This garden is at its most glorious on a still autumn day, when colourful leaves are reflected in the lake for double impact. A gentle circular walk around the garden is suitable for all but the most unsteady, and you can finish with a hearty lunch in the Spread Eagle, a gastropub located just outside the gate.

www.nationaltrust. org.uk/Stourhead

Hergest Croft Gardens, Welsh Marches

A delicious garden of mature trees and shrubs which deserves to be better known. Glowing autumn colours and a planting of maples awarded National Collection status should please any October visitor, but make sure to admire the conservatory, autumn border, and pumpkins in the kitchen garden, too.

www.hergest.co.uk

Westonbirt Arboretum

Hundreds of thousands of people will descend on Westonbirt over the next month to gawp at the fall colour in this world-class tree collection. Avoid the Old Arboretum crush and head to the New Arboretum to walk in old Forestry Commission larch plantations now underplanted with hundreds of Japanese maples. www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt

Kew Gardens

Last year the gardens looked as if they had been set alight with blazing scarlets and oranges, from red oaks, sweet gums and maples. Let kids amuse themselves on Treehouse Towers, the outdoor play area with rope bridges and zip wires, or take a free Tapestry of Trees Tour with an expert guide, daily, focusing on autumn foliage. www.kew.org

Three autumnal plant pleasures

Berberis thunbergii 'Erecta'

Not the year-round school-uniform burgundy variety, but one with crisp green leaves throughout the summer that turn in autumn to the brightest reds and oranges. Grows very straight, hence the name, and deeply thorny, so good for a boundary. £6.95 from www.perryhillnurseries.co.uk

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

You have to be mean to get repeated joy from these dogwoods (left), as all the stems must be cut back to produce the fiery-coloured twiggy new growth. But this will light up your garden even on the dingiest winter day. £7.99 from www.crocus.co.uk

Angelica gigas

Common wild angelica, at 6ft-7ft high, is an impressive plant. But Korean Angelica gigas is even more stunning, bearing deep-purple flowerheads before staying skeletal through the autumn. £6.99 from www.crocus.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border