View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Nature
6 September 2023

The bitter-sweet beauty of late summer gardening

As the gloom and magic of autumn looms, another season of the year sneaks out the door.

By Alice Vincent

I filled the last weekend in August with small rituals that sang of late summer. I walked, hair-whipped, through the barren shingle of Winchelsea picking blackberries, fat and salty with sea air. I cut back the greying lavender in our front garden and breathed in its deep purple hue. I stuffed the fridge full of produce grown by more patient friends – fat yellow courgettes, pimply cucumbers, feathery agretti and parsley – and baked plums into cakes.

Summer’s waning can be a bitter-sweet time: the gloom and magic of autumn looms, another season of the year sneaks out the door. But this year feels particularly piquant; we’ve had such a strange and somehow absent summer. While wildfires have raged on the continent, the UK has been left under clouds by the same damaged climate. Last summer, as the country sweltered during weeks of heat, I longed for rain. This year I’ve barely sat in the garden.

The era of predictable summers has been well behind us for years now. Gardeners are among those better attuned to the realities of the climate catastrophe and biodiversity crisis because we witness it at a granular level. We observe the impact of imbalance in our little plots, and, frequently, we fret. This summer leafy perennials have romped along – my ferns have had a field day, as has the volunteer white dead-nettle I’ve left to fill out a bed. Those dedicated to sun-loving annuals will have been frustrated: there’s barely been enough sunshine to ripen a tomato. The summer has followed a dry late spring, a freezing early spring and a brutal winter. Gardeners, those of us closest to the ground, are constantly being challenged.

It’s about more than whether our roses have had a good year or not. It’s about the ease with which we can conjure life from the ground. Gardening in a climate catastrophe increasingly feels naïve, courageous, futile and essential – all at once. And yet, we persist. If we don’t grow in these changing conditions, who will?

[See also: A garden should be primarily for enjoyment]

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Topics in this article : , , ,

This article appears in the 06 Sep 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Crumbling Britain

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU