31 October 2007
And then there was frost.....
How perfect that on this clear, cool, calm last day of October, we should get up this morning and see that there was frost; not on the pumpkins, which are on the doorstep and somewhat warmed by the house, but in most of the garden, the silver spangles were showing. This sunflower was taking its final bow of the season, although it still has a few seeds left for hungry birds.
Even as I walked around the garden with camera in hand, the signs of frost were melting in all but the most shaded areas. It wasn't the hardest of frosts, because a few hours later, a stroll around the yard showed a surprising number of annuals were carrying on; the osteospermum and venidium daisies, for example, were smiling up at the sunlight, while the yellow impatiens said, 'so long, and thanks for all the seaweed'...and melted into mushiness.
So even though it's not the big, brutal, kill-everything-even-the-weeds frost, we've definitely passed into the end stages of this gardening season.
We could be overwhelmed, of course, and there are moments when we feel that way. Sunday was a fine (though much windier) day, and I cleaned up one bed and tucked in a few dozen of the gazillions of bulbs purchased earlier. SEveral days ago I had taken a walk around the yard, looking at the various beds and all the things on the 'to-do' list that should be done...and then I remembered that gardening isn't meant to be a stresser, but a pleasure. Which it is...but sometimes we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the "dreaded shoulds" in our gardens, just as we do in other parts of our lives.
Sometimes, we need to just take some deep breaths (of fresh air, be it tinged with bonfire smoke or with the last rose of autumn) and remind ourselves that what gets done, gets done...and what doesn't, isn't the end of the world. When I work in a slower, more contemplative manner, it frees my mind up to play with words and ideas, to craft out stories, to plot and plan and prepare, so that when I return to my keyboard to write, the words tumble out. That hour I stole from the computer pays off in big dividends.
My mantra for completing whatever garden cleanup gets done this fall? One bed at a time. It's a great way to feel like something is accomplished, to look at one bed and see it cleaned up--however you define cleaning--and prepared for a winter's nap.
Cleanup chores for our garden include getting as many weeds out as possible; cutting dead annuals off at ground level (if they're planted out) or consigning them to the compost (if they've been in containers.) I cut down some of the perennial stalks, usually only if seedheads are spent or gone and the stalks dry and uninteresting. Many perennials provide food for overwintering birds, and shelter for beneficial insects. Plus what plant doesn't look great with a rime of frost or a dusting of snow on it?
Although there are still quite a few flowers blooming around the yard, the day is coming when we'll rely on the evergreens and on berries to provide flashes of colour out of doors. Indoors, we turn now to promises of spring...in this case, in the form of "winter tulips' purchased yesterday at a store in town. The purple of these small tulips appealed to me, with their bright yellow stamens and graceful touches of blue at each petal's base. I figure a fresh bunch of flowers once a week isn't an exorbitant luxury. Wouldn't you agree?