Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Urns of Darlington: Autumn

This is the final installment of The Urns of Darlington series, in which I show you, Dear Reader, the seasonal rotation of plantings in the large cast-iron urns at Darlington House.  I acknowledge that some of you may find it will be the least interesting installment of the series, since these are the urns upon which the least effort was expended.  And, on one level, you would be right.  But Reggie finds these urns to be the most satisfying of the series.  For these are the simplest.  Simplicity is a quality that Reggie greatly values, given how elusive he finds it to be in much of the man-made world, where the propensity is to not leave well enough alone.

A massive chrysanthemum in our largest urn

Reggie is proud to say that he adores chrysanthemums.  And he is happy to decorate his property during the autumn with ones from his local garden supply store, an Agway that sits but a little less than a mile from Darlington House.  Reggie says he is "proud" because there are certain circles that consider chrysanthemums beneath contempt, and horridly common.  MD's generation was taught to loathe chrysanthemums, vulgarly known as "mums."  That's because their mothers' generation adored them and, to be frank, over-used them in table arrangements.  Another strike against them was that florists over-relied on them (along with daisies and baby's breath) when creating those awful, long-lived FTD-type arrangements that uglified many a table in this country for far too long, and which Reggie understands are still to be seen in certain benighted households even to this day.

But Reggie adores chrysanthemums, and believes they are a worthy adornment to any household when chosen carefully and used contextually.  He doesn't care at all for the over-hybridized ones seen in many garden centers today, found in garish and unnatural colors such as fuchsia, mauve, or acid yellow.  Actually, he abhores those.  No, he approves only of ones in autumnal hues of rust, deep crimson, and gold.  Those, he believes, are the only appropriate colors for chrysanthemums, at least out of doors, and are the only colors you will ever find filling urns at Darlington House.

"Wait a minute, Reggie," you might cry in looking at the above photograph, "you haven't done anything to that urn in front of the door at Darlington House!  That's the same grass that was in it in your summer installment of the series!"  And you would be correct, Dear Reader, it is the same grass.  We haven't changed it out this year because we like the way the grass looks far too much to rip it out.  And, besides, it looks appropriately autumnal, in our view.

Rather than replant the urns in front of the door to the house, we decided to decorate the marble step at the door with these marvelous, generously scaled pumpkins grown at Holmquest Farms, in nearby Hudson, New York.  They are quite handsome, don't you think?

Just as we did at the door to Darlington House so we did at the base of the large urn that sits at the end of the walkway leading up to the house: we placed a large pumpkin next to it.  And yes, you are correct: that is the same handsome Mexican Lilly in the urn that we planted there this summer.  

Beauty is simplicity.

And so this draws to a close the four seasons of the Urns of Darlington House.  We are off today to Massachusetts to buy the evergreen shrubs that we will soon plant in the urns for winter, starting the cycle once again.

All photos by Boy Fenwick


  1. Often simple is just right. What was that quote by Leonardo Divinci? "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." I think your Darlington is simply charming in it's fall splendor.

  2. I agree with MD that cut mums are tacky and should be avoided at all cost but outdoor mums in the Fall, whether on the ground or in urns, are superb. Unfortunately I planted some yellow ones in my humble lake house before I read this post. Now I am eyeing them with slight contempt and planning their early demise, although they look awfully nice with the pumpkins next to the front door. Wait! do I see a tinge of gold?

    Those mums look divine on the urns and the grass with the pumpkins...very Martha Stewart!

  3. This is a most beautiful outdoor plant. I love the deep crimson shade the most. Your urns are magnificent, Reggie, howvever you adorn them.

    Art by Karena

  4. My great conversion about mums (I'm too lazy to type out the full word) was years ago in the conservatory garden in central park---the borders just alive with graceful, leggy, gently colored mums (still lazy). Just beautiful.

    aesthetic pronouncements, as people, even sometimes the Dilettante, are prone to make are dangerous things, because there is always the exception that breaks the rule. Thank goodness.

  5. They look simply fabulous! Peonies were considered once to be very common.They are cherished favorites of the A&A house!

  6. Hi Reggie...I agree about the mauve and fuschia varieties of mums. They always seem a bit garish and out of place.

    Lovely photos, as always! I think the grass in your urn is just perfect. As are your chrysanthemums and pumpkins. Everything looks tastefully Autumnal and gorgeous.


  7. Dear Reggie, I am afraid to say that I am with MD on the topic of Chrysanthemums. As the indomitable Maggie Smith said in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie....."Chrysanthemums are such serviceable flowers". This, I believe says it all. They oblige with flower at the end of the garden year, they are available in colours that would make rainbows blush, they are reluctant to die unless treated with absolute neglect and they are oh so stiff!!

    However, your urn filled with the seemingly everlasting grass looks wonderful.

  8. Your post puts me in mind of Frederick Law Olmsted, who saw not individual blooms, which could well be commonplace and, as the previous commenter puts it so aptly, "serviceable," but the astonishing cumulative effect of masses of flowers. I too love chrysanthemums in abundance, which is a good thing, because that is what appears to be available to me right now in the part of the country in which I live. And while I've never been fond of those with pinkish hues, and yellow does seem out of place, I do confess to a fondness for deep purple and also to white, both of which seem to me to coordinate well with an autumn palette.

    Do you treat your 'mums as perennials and simply transplant them in a sheltered spot at the end of the season, or do you discard them as annuals? I am trying to figure out what to do with mine.

  9. Since I am such a common wench that lives in a common house in the suburbs -- I will state that I love mums -- especially in the fall outdoors! The first photo literally took my breath away -- a gorgeous, lush and striking display -- both in color and visual balance! The whole photo would make such a lovely cover for a Fall or Halloween party invitation! Do you and Boy Fenwick (and Pompey of course!) have any celebrations planned for Halloween? Does your neighbourhood have wee Trick-or-Treaters? I am in the midst of placing outdoor decorations for kids and indoor bar preparations for adults -- we live on Lot 13 on Cemetery Hill -- so we have LOTS of little ones that visit! We even constructed an eight-foot spider that straddles the front walkway! LOL!

    Best Wishes for a Wonderful Jack O'Lantern Night! Will you be telling ghost stories by the firelight?

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage (renamed Hemlock Cottage for the big Night!)

  10. Let the Tide: Thank you.

    Stephanie: That quote is perfection, thank you for it. Now I shall see if I can find a kind soul to embroider it on a pillow for me . . . but tastefully!

    Lindaraxa: Reggie will give you a "pass" on the yellow chrysanthemums, as they, he is sure, look marvelous at your lakeside house.

    Karena: Thank you.

    DED: Reggie is full of pronouncements today! And he agrees with you that massive borders of thousands of chrysanthemum plants, crowded together, can be heavenly. Reggie has seen such plantings on Park Avenue, to glorious effect.

    A&A: Peonies common?! That's news to Reggie, who has always considered them to be the Queen of the late spring flowering beauties. He shares your appreciation of them.

    Hill House: Thank you.

    Staircase Witch: Reggie agrees that, under certain circumstances (such as you and DED raise in your comments) one can find what may be undesirable in a single plant is transformed when it is one of many. And no, Reggie does not keep his chrysanthemums beyond the end of the season, but rather sends them to the compost heap.

    Edith Hope: Ah, dear me, Reggie has been shown to be the commoner that he is. He can't help it, he likes chrysanthemums! As he also once confessed to his readers he, too, likes Keebler's packaged chedder cheese sandwich crackers, very common indeed. He thanks you for the compliment on the grass, though.

    Teacats: Unfortunately wee little trick-or-treaters rarely stop by Darlington House anymore. Last year we decorated the walkways, lit lanterns, and had a large bowl of candy for those that stopped by. And not one did! Reggie nearly got sick eating the candy (he has a weakness for it), and only saved himself from eating all of it by bringing what was left in to the office when he returned to work. We are having a small dinner party tonight, but I am not expecting any of the guests to arrive wearing masks. Perhaps one shall, and will give Reggie a fright!

  11. Reggie, I briefly contemplated embroidering the pillow for you but these days my stitches just aren't up to the standard I set for myself many years ago. xox Camilla

  12. I love your grassy urn - perfect example of Wabi Sabi. The older I get the more I like to appreciate the downhill side of things!

  13. Reggie,
    I like your autumn urn the most. It's beautiful. I like the way you arranged them, like a furry hat.
    chrysanthemum are my favorite fall flowers, I like to see them in fall time ONLY, cannot stand it when see them for sale in summer.
    they remind me autumn in the south of Ukraine (my home country) and they are the flowers for my b-day in November :-)

  14. Oh dear Reggie...first of all, your urns beauty is magnified by the simlicity of the mums, the wonderful round shape and their gorgeous color let the urn be the star yet the spot light is still shared. Second of mother-in-law is most definitely from that "circle" and just last night we had to hear once again how dreadfully aweful "mums" were, how much they were hated, and why she will never have them in her house! Your post is like a breath of sane air to me right now...and has calmed the boiling blood down a bit, thank you!

    I haven't been able to read many blogs lately but tonight, while I'm waiting for the doorbell to ring (or actually, to hear a knocking as we don't have a doorbell), I am looking forward to sipping tea and catching up with you! xo J~

    BTW- Your four seasons of urns were *all* beautiful...I could hear Vivaldi playing in the background as I enjoyed them.

  15. Strong, simple, colorful without being obnoxious. Plus I've filled the window box at my office with the same mums, so great minds and all that ...

  16. The urns of Darlington are the luckiest urns in all the land!

    We just could not find any mums that we liked for the half hull planter this year, so went straight to dwarf evergreen trees. Now, they are surrounded by little gourds, to be replaced with bittersweet at Thanksgiving and pine cones at Christmas. "Beauty is simplicity" indeed.

  17. I agree with 24 Corners (last paragraph) I, too, can hear Vivaldi's The Four Seasons" as I read your post.
    The mums in the urn proudly display their colors of autumn in simple beauty-- just as the beribboned apples were enschoned in the basket. Looking forward to the next and always
    interesting post on The Urns or Darlington.
    Your humble reader,

  18. Oh darling Reggie, I must contrar here-Sheffield Pink is one of my favorites. It's an excellent garden worthy cultivar, with precious pale pink, daisy like flowers that seem to last forever. You might be surprised. I do not love the autumnal MUM colors- and the yellow seems to be one of the oldest. Do not hate all MUMS because some MUMS are common, like people, some are quite the thing.
    Your pots are lovely, of course simpler is better as you say & know is my humble opinion. pgt

  19. These Mums are lovely! And nothing like the "hardy Mums" I see at our local grocer...and I am not referring to the group of ex pat mothers who prance around the market in their tennis whites all winter long...but I digress...I am pleased to see we both share a love of black iron ours are so similar to Darlington! We keep things even simpler...with just two seasonal changes...Winter: Evergreens/The Rest: Ferns!

  20. Dearest Reggie, we adore the Urnathon, *and* the mums! Common doesn't always translate to bad, sometimes it may be best for the situation.

    And the simplicity, less-is-best philosophy is one we adhere to here at the Prepatorium.

    Hope your Friday is fab, and the weekend even better.

  21. I agree that the simplest designs are usually the the most appealing. They are classic and will stand the test of time. Never out of style. And for the use of burnt orange chrysanthemums excellent choice.


  22. So luck to come across your excellent blog. Your blog brings me a great deal of fun.. Good luck with the site. Perfect Memorials


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