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
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Financial Accounting Manager

£300 - £400 per day: Argyll Scott International: I am currently recruiting on ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Based Sales Surveyor - OTE £40,000

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Based Sales Surveyor is...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI Designer/ User Interface Designer (UI, User Flow, Design)

£6000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI De...

Investigo: International Finance Analyst

£270 - £300 per annum: Investigo: An exciting opportunity to join an internati...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?