I do love autumn, the mellow colours, misty mornings, bowls of soup, fruity crumbles, woodland walks and the smell of leaf litter but it’s been a struggle this year to embrace the changing seasons. A holiday by the Cornish coast last week went some way towards easing me into October though.
Some glorious weather gave us the opportunity to walk the coastal path where brambles were laden with fruit. In previous, warmer, summers the blackberry crop has ripened much earlier. Two years ago we were bramble picking in mid-August in the Forest of Dean with the whole crop gone a month later; the contrast this year is quite remarkable.
I’m always quite amazed at just what will grow in such an exposed location. At the extremities of the British Isles the north Cornish coast often bears the brunt of Atlantic storms and much of the ground is either rocky with little topsoil or is made up of a significant amount of sand. Summer flowering plants, such as the umbellifers wild angelica and hogweed, had died leaving behind the skeletal forms of stalks and seedheads. Bleached blond by the sun and salt-laden wind they looked beautiful against the blue sky and golden sand.
There were the seedheads of wild carrot curling back in on themselves and those of the common ragwort, rusty brown in their final stage of maturity.
The fresh green of spring and the vibrant pinks, blues and yellows may have been replaced by faded, muted tones of browns and beiges but I rather like these forms left by these wild flowers, such as the papery pom poms of sea thrift.
I was surprised to see some plants still flowering. Valerian in its pink, red and whites forms must have one of the longest flowering periods of all herbaceous perennials. In my own garden, it flowers from June through to the first frosts, generally at some point in October but in the mild maritime climate of Cornwall it flowers earlier and will continue into November.
Primrose yellow is not really a colour I would associate with autumn but this is the prime time to see toadflax, Linaria vulgaris, and its snapdragon/aquilegia hybrid-like flowers. The blooms are designed just like antirrhinums with a bottom lip-like flower part which lowers when an insect such as a bee lands on it, allowing the insect access to the pollen and nectar inside. Bees are attracted to this part of the flower by the deeper yellow, sometimes orange, markings guiding them to where the sugary rewards for pollination are to be found. The back of the flower has a spur just like those found on aquilegias.
In amongst the sand dunes were the seedheads of sea plantain and sea spurge still flowering, relatives of plants we’re more use to seeing in our garden borders and lawn, these varieties have adapted to the coastal conditions. Sea plantain, in fact, is often found growing in salt marshes and is one of few plants that can cope with such high salinity.
Conditions may be tough for plants along the coast but occasionally there was a reminder of one of the great benefits of living on this southern tip of Britain. The lack of hard frosts here and the generally milder air drawn up by the gulf stream allows for a wider range of plants to be grown and whilst many flowers are fading in my own garden they are still blooming profusely here in Cornwall. As the path dipped down out of the prevailing wind we came across this shot of colour from these nasturtiums sprawling across the bank of this little slipway.
I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who wished me a great holiday. It was good to switch off. Of course, it takes a while to get back into gear after a spell away, well it does for me. Once the pile of washing and ironing has diminished I’m looking forward to catching up with all your blogs again.
Roy and Tanya said:
As ever, your blogs are delightful to read, so delicate and full of information. We’re glad that your holiday went well.
This is an area that we, well one of us anyway, knows really well, the Camel estuary is idyllic. It was good to see the photos, they bring back some very happy memories.
The last time that Tanya and I were down there was in summer 2008, a short trip to Cornwall had been marred by wet weather but on arriving in Padstow – the sun came out and all was well with the world.
Thank you. We did have a lovely time. Even on a dull day there seems to be more light in the Camel estuary as the light reflects off the sand. I never get tired of the view across to Rock and Daymer Bay.
Glad you caught some good weather away.
I like the muted colours and skeletons of plants in the garden in autumn, though much of our garden is still rioting with colour quite unaware so far.
Glimpses of primrose yellow from the toadflax along the verges near us always surprise and delight me at this time of year, I love their snapdragon flowers.
Toadflax are quite a new discovery for me and I love them.
Glad you had a good holiday and have come home refreshed. We were on the North coast of Cornwall for our fortnight holiday this year, about five miles from Bude. We love it there. Hope the ironing pile soon goes down.
It’s such a beautiful place the north coast. We’ve never actually got to Bude yet about the only part of Cornwall we have yet to visit. Drying the clothes at the moment seems to be the biggest problem 😦
Glad you enjoyed your break in Cornwall, from your photos you seem to have had some good weather. Coastal paths are amazing for their diversity of species, I can remember walking the coastal path in S.Wales many years ago and we didn’t know where to put our feet, there were so many flowers. Your seedheads are so dramatic against the blue sky, very artistic!
Thanks Pauline. The combination of plants and the sea, what more could you want?
A lovely post which really doesn’t have an autumnal feel to it, especially with all that blue sky showing in most of the photos. xx
Thanks Flighty. The sky may have been blue but there was a distinct chill to the breeze on some days. 😉
Glad you had a good time. I am still waiting for confirmation of when we can take on our allotment plot. Been up to the site & looking forward to starting up. Will be relying on your advice in the coming months & have already picked up some good tips from your blog and your followers this last 12 months, so thanks a lot.
We had a lovely time, thanks. Hope the plot isn’t in too bad a state. There’s plenty of helpful advice around so you shouldn’t have a problem that can’t be answered by someone 🙂
I love Autumn (until the weather turns foul around the start of May). Up until then we get lovely clear sunny mild days, gold and red foliage in trees around our neighbourhood and the smell of people burning off garden waste in their gardens. I also love Autumn flowers such as dahlias and asters.
I love my annual Autumn garden ‘tasks’ such as selecting and planting spring flowering bulbs, spreading mulch on my garden beds, harvesting the last produce, collecting leaves around the neighbourhood for leaf mould and putting borders to rest for the coming Winter.
The last month of Summer here is usually hot and dry (and often windy) so I am always keen for Autumn to start. I will admit the novelty runs out by the end of May where we get less than 8 hours of light, strong winds and cold and snow setting in.
I hope you enjoyed Cornwall! I have always meant to go there, maybe the next time I’m in the UK. The UK coastline is just stunning, I especially love the pebbly beaches and chalky cliffs.
Hi Danielle, I’d love autumn better if it wasn’t turning into a damp, dull period. Especially after the miserable summer 😦 I’m very envious that you are moving into spring. Cornwall is my favourite place and would highly recommend a visit, although it is a rather long way a way for you.
Autumn is one of my favourite seasons – spring being the other, I am a real transitions girl. I agree that there is a magic in the muted shades and stark skeletons of this time of year. Glad you got a break and to enjoy sand, sea and cliff walks. Always good for the soul.
It was hard to come back to be honest. The pull of the sea gets stronger every time we go and the desire to move closer to the sea takes over our thoughts. Of course, jobs and finances are the reality and neither really fit with a move at the moment. Hopefully one day though.
A week in Cornwall – sounds like a most civilised way of easing yourself into the season WW. Glad to hear that you were able to lap up the scenery and the wildflowers. I enjoyed clicking on your photos for the full effect. Your post title would be most apt for a book title, either a mystery or thriller set in Cornwall – maybe a horticultural whodunit 🙂
Oooops – the last comment is from me WW – was logged into our fledgling allotment website which I am working on. Must log off before I confuse myself further 🙂
It was lovely. Oh I do like the idea of a horticultural whodunnit. Ivy and intrigue in the grounds of a large estate like Heligan ….
Glad you had a good holiday it sounded like you both needed a break and some beach walking and sea air always helps blow the cobwebs away. Similarly I’ve just come back from a week by the sea, in Dorset and had a great time getting blown about on the beaches. I love seeing what grows on shingle and the edges of the beach too. They are true hardy varieties.
Glad you had a good time too. It’s a nice time to be by the sea. Although I can’t actually think of a time I wouldn’t want to be by the sea 🙂
Cornwall is delightful, almost whatever the weather there are interesting things to see and do, but I’m glad you enjoyed some sunny, mild days. If I didn’t live here Cornwall is a place I’d love to live. Welcome back! Christina
It is and that is where we hope to live one day but it’s difficult to find work that allows for it at the moment. Missing Cornwall but it’s good to be back blogging again. WW.