Posts Tagged Autumn Joy

Closed for the Winter/Gone Dreamin’

Sadly, I had to admit that it was time to close up shop again for the winter. Finally, all my plants have been put to bed.

I only go out to the porch now to get my morning paper, shivering a little in my sweat pants outfit I call my pajamas. I peer over the railing to look for shallow holes, hoping that another bulb hasn’t been unearthed by one of my many squirrel friends.

A few weekends after I put my spring bulbs in, I cut everything back to a few inches, including my Peonies. You’re supposed to wait until spring to do this but they had developed a mild form of powdery mildew. This somewhat alarming state was due to the water dripping from my window box with the Morning Glories. I hope that the Peonies will be alright, spring wouldn’t be the same without their heady scent.

I save a few stalks of Autumn Joy like I do every year. Their rusty brown red does look nice in a vase. I brighten for a moment because I love to bring reminders of the summer into my house.

I tie up the rose canes so that they don’t whip around in the winter wind. After the first frost, I must remember to mound up some dirt around the Queen of Sweden rose bush. Some experts say that cloaking roses in the earth gives them a kind of winter coat, protecting the roots. They were confused, poor things, by the unseasonably warm weather, and started to bloom again. A few rosy souls are peeking out of their green cladding, now with a wary glance. Soon, the buds will be frozen in their tracks.

I stand up to stretch for a moment. Funny how despite the warm fall day you can smell the coming cold snap on the edge of the rustling wind.

I leave most of the tall prickly Globe Thistle to lean over the garden so that it can catch the winter snow. If I wasn’t so attached to the idea of an old-fashioned cottage garden, I might have planted some grasses to add to the wintery forms.

I also leave all the plants with the woody stems alone, like the Lavender and Catmint. How convenient that woody plants do best if you wait until spring to prune. I happily abandon the idea of adding anymore mulch. The 3 inches or so I spread around in May will suffice. I choose to agree with the opinion that too much mulch can breed disease.

When I go back inside, I can see a few determined paper-thin leaves holding onto the oak branches outside the kitchen window. After a while, I start to dream about how I can add more color to my garden next year. I rustle around and find my highly-annotated garden sketch. Maybe I’ll add some Monkshood for its late-blooming purple and soft petals. My cold-weather ritual has begun.

Even though I gripe about winter every year, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is something reassuring and timeless about the way that the seasons cycle through the year. The way you can smell snow coming on a day with a powdery gray sky.

On the radio, I can hear a cathedral choir singing the Holly and the Ivy. Christmas is on its way. The soaring soprano voices above the robust tenors are hopeful every time. And so it goes…

Garden Reading Notes
If you are starting to hunker down, you might want to check out The Gardener’s Year by Czech author Karel Capek, a prolific writer better known for coining the word “robot” in his 1921 play, R.U.R. This little book had me laughing out loud with its very human descriptions of the struggles we gardeners endure and includes illustrations by his brother.

The book gives you a feeling of a moment in time as Capek wrote it in 1929, not long before Hitler rose to power. Capek also wrote a number of anti-Nazi plays and died in 1938 soon after the Munich Agreement was signed.

Many thanks to all the Blotanists who have made me feel so welcome!

Wishing everyone a happy holidays,
Lisa G.


Comments (6)

Lost in the Garden Zone

I’ve been planting my cottage garden for about 4 years, which includes a number of smallish plots around my house in New England, near Boston.

I like getting lost in what I call the garden “zone.” It usually starts out innocently enough as I sit with my morning coffee on the front steps. Mmm…doesn’t the sun look great spilling over the garden, the yellow Daffodils are nodding next to the cobalt blue Scilla of early spring. On a light breeze, I can smell the familiar scent of lilac. I congratulate myself, once again, for having planted it so close to porch. The yellow and purplish Pansies in the window box look like great floppy hats.

All this before the grand display of June and July, full of various roses, the stunning grace of Peonies with Iris, the delicate blue and white Bell Flowers, and so on. I also enjoy the waning colors of fall, the subdued ruddy browns, burnt oranges, and reds. My Hydrangea, now darker pink, is tangled nicely with the purple Russian Sage. No matter the season (except the dreaded winter of course), it always starts the same way.

“I’ll just snip off that brown stem,” I say to myself. Clippers in hand, I wander happily, nothing like a session in the garden to sort out the problems of the world and clear your mind. Except that hours later I can still be found puttering around, by now the sun is blazing. I bought a wide-brimmed cotton hat just for that purpose and I try to remember to put it on.

I’ve also discovered that gardening is not for the faint of heart. Forget that picture-book image of long ago, the one with the frail maiden and the dainty basket of cut flowers. Gardening turns out to be a good workout. Lugging mulch and top soil around does wonders for the muscle tone. In the 3rd year, I dug a hole deep enough to fall into. It wasn’t until then that I realized why plants refused to grow in certain parts of my garden. I hadn’t gone down deep enough to find a number of leftover tree roots. I bought a saw, and sawed and sawed, until finally I wrested one out, landing backwards with a big thump. With a dirt-encrusted arm, I brandished an overgrown root. It looked like an enormous tooth from a root canal gone awry.

Five summers later, all my dirt digging, catalog browsing, and note scribbling, have paid off. This was the first year that I saw the successive colors I imagined. When I wrote this entry, the crisp fall air had yet to settle in and I was still in denial about summer being over.

Garden Reading Notes
To keep myself sane in the winter, I read anything about gardening I can get my hands on. I learned a lot from Color in Your Garden, by acclaimed Brit Penelope Hobhouse. It’s a big useful book organized by color with large photos and charts which clearly identify bloom time. By the way, you wouldn’t want to mess with Penelope, just by the stern look on her face and stiff tweed coat, you can tell that her advice is to be taken seriously.

Lisa G.

Comments (14)