Autumn is a time of celebration and to our minds traditionally a period to take comfort from the rich harvest which is to be processed, stored and preserved. We take the word harvest, which comes from the old English, hærfest, to encapsulate a period in time in the Autumn where we bring in the crops but before the advent of mechanisation this is exactly what it was as threshers would spend the following months, sometimes into April separating the wheat from the chaff. The word Autumn although from Latin was largely unused outside of France until the 16th Century and the season was referred to as the Harvest. This Harvest has always been a traditionally joyful period of finally being able to bring in the crops.
The word Fall which is largely used in American for the Autumn season traces its origins back to old germanic languages. The exact origins are unclear but the old English feallan has a meaning to fall from height and its not hard to see it in use in expressions as a ‘leaf fall’.
One of my favorite horticultural events at this time of year which always coincides with the Autumn Equinox is the Malvern Autumn Show. The Show is set in rural England at the 3 Counties Agricultural Showground at the foot of the Malvern Hills. The show annually attracts 60,000 visitors and is held over 2 days. This year I was asked by the organisers to create a feature garden in the Good Life Pavilion, a space which explores and celebrates a good life in balance with nature and one where one reveals in the home produced.
I created a piece of landscape based on a working Coppice in Malvern. Taking the Anglo-saxon origins of a mound and ditch system to protect the coppiced wood I created a large ditch which was filled with water and a natural mound which we planted with Betula to represent naturally seeded specimens. In Malvern our coppice of inspiration was of Hazel, Corylus avellana and we used specimen plants planted in a traditional grid formation of 10ft apart to replicate the coppice. To show continued life in the coppice over the centuries we also created a walled monastic kitchen garden and had free roaming heritage breed chickens. To complete the feel of a slice of landscape we create a dry stone wall with a water pump which replicated British Camp a bronze age fort on Malvern where a pipe freely gives the famous Malvern Water.
Throughout the weekend the Good Life Pavilion has a host of gardening personalities and experts in their fields giving lectures and demonstrations. The principle presenters this year were well known television gardener Joe Swift and the United Kingdom’s first climate change farmer, Mark Diacano. Talks ranged from the difference between home grown produce to homeopathic remedies. On Sunday I was invited to interview on stage a hugely interesting man who farms Oak Silk Moths in Shropshire. With the audience full we launched into the history of silk and travelled a journey from collecting insects as a young boy to scaling Mount Everest with just 3 silk cocoons.
The show has always been rather special to me, having created a number of gardens which have always been well received by the Royal Horticultural Society Judging Panel and the public, Malvern has always been a kind of home and like any home the organiser’s have always been hugely supportive, something in the air this year made if feel just that little bit more special, like a scent on the breeze, captured in the show goers’ memory to savour over the long winter.