There's an argument to suggest our seasons are shifting or even becoming less distinguishable from each other with the gap between summer highs and winter lows becoming less pronounced. With still a month to go until our autumnal solstice (when day and night are of equal length) its surprising to see signs of autumn already upon us.
As a child I remember collecting Horse Chestnuts from the trees in a local park and subjecting them to all sorts of treatments to try and make them hard enough to reign supreme in the playground. I'm certain this ritual was always in late September early October yet here I am looking at Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) seed that I found on the ground in mid-August.
Autumn crocus in flower a whole month early.
There are lots of other signs, well developed beech husks (Fagus sylvatica) are evident in our parkland along with swelling Sweet Chestnuts (Castanea sativa). A healthy portion of blackberries (Rubus fruiticosus) has been finding its way to the chef on a weekly basis much earlier than usual and certain to be followed very soon by pears. The later flowering plants are out in their full splendour and have been for some time, while the Delphiniums, Lupins and Foxgloves are a distant memory we can bask in the bold earthy colours of the Rudbeckia and Heleniums. Some annuals are still happy to provide colour such as this Cleome and Sunflower.
Harvest is a favourite of mine and the time is upon us to start thinking about squirrelling away reserves of food to get us through the coldest of months when produce is at a premium.
Onions are in my opinion are such an underrated crop. Present in so many dishes regardless of culture these easy to grow and store bulbs are a staple of any winter storage cupboard. For an early crop next year plant Japanese overwintering onions in September to help bridge the gap between this years harvests and next.
The final curtain has by no means come down on summer yet but there is definitely reason to get excited about some of the joys that autumn brings with it.
It's in autumn we witness the unveiling of the clandestine pigments hiding in the leaves only to be revealed when the green chlorophyll has had its fill.
The lower more diffused light certainly puts a more romantic slant on everything and provides much more dramatic shadows than we've been accustomed to these last few months.
I for one will be making the most of the remaining long warm days before its time to split wood, make bonfires and dig out the Halloween costumes.