These are dark days indeed.
All traces of life slowly fade from the landscape as the hours shorten and shadows lengthen.
The autumnal dance now done, the trees lie brittle and bare to the sky. The last perennials splay and shiver like a ghost army defeated by the rain and wind.
But with this kind of darkness, there is nothing to fear.
Far better to welcome the dying of the light. And accept how time strips away the layers to expose the spectral forms and bones at the root of it all.
You want it darker
We kill the flame
The power of negation
Radiant blooms and bright bolts of colour are only memories now. Instead, something perhaps deeper takes hold.
A lonely quiet haunts the air: the spider webs lie vacant while the insects are long gone to ground or hiding. The birds of winter are left to quarrel amongst themselves.
For the gardener who embraces this fading dark, it unlocks an otherworld of possibilities. The essential structure of the garden space reveals itself: a final metamorphosis into a kind of ethereal sculpture park.
In the New Perennial garden,
pushes us to
reimagine our concept
of what beauty
in a garden can be.
We are all Dutch dreamers
Always better to show than tell.
With this in mind, I’ve asked some of my favourite designers, plantsfolk and photographers to show how they capture the light in this transformative time of darkness.
We’re all connected via Dutch Dreams, our shared Facebook group dedicated to exploring the latest currents in New Perennial and naturalistic design.
The group is international and intergenerational and serves as a forum for designers, photographers, and gardeners to share and discuss their latest work.
Their artistry is so inspired and timely that I thought to share it here. Our members may be from all over the world, but our common link is as Dutch Dreamers, a shorthand way to describe how we think about gardens and planting design.
Each individual uncovers beauty in the darkness in a different way. I invite you to glide your cursor over each photo to learn the names behind each incredible image.
There’s plenty more where that came from.
Change in the air
No secateurs please. That is not our way.
Leave everything in place for the wind to rasp, for the frost to suspend, and the snow to bury.
It’s a sweet slow decay of gnarled, eroded leaves, and hollow stems, their life-force draining.
The plant’s entire being collapses and distills into the micro-capsule of pod or seed, ready to split and crack when its time comes.
The last juices retract into its basal crown, thickening into a resin that keeps the perennials ticking on bare life support through the winter.
This is what all that growing was for. As each generation falls, dying to live again.
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;I hear my echo in the echoing wood –A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
Special thanks to these Dutch Dreamers for permission to share their work:
Hans van Horssen
Jaap de Vries