By Teresa Woodard
Artist Andrew Wyeth may not have been a gardener, but his poetic painting reminds me of the beauty of fallen leaves and the valuable role they play in protecting plants in winter, conserving moisture in the ground, keeping soil cool and returning rich humus and nutrients to the soil as they decompose. After years of raking big sycamore leaves in my backyard as a kid, I was glad to learn later from a gardening friend, Jane Rogers, that my woodland wildflowers are better off if I don’t rake the leaves. Additionally, plantsman David Voyles, showed me the results of using leaf mulch (“gardener’s gold”) in my vegetable garden. When I was first establishing the garden, we would order leaf mulch from a mulch supplier, but now I beg my neighbors to deliver a load of shredded leaves that they vacuum from their wooded lawn. I cover the vegetable beds with the leaf mulch and by spring they’re ready to turn into the soil. So remember Wyeth’s promise of spring as you crunch through the leaves this season.
I love seeing Andrew Wyeth’s work—this one I’ve never seen. He was always a favorite of my mother’s and when I was a kid we often drove from Ohio to see his Chadd Ford’s studio and home. Now, I return to the Brandywine River Museum whenever I visit nearby Longwood Gardens. You’ve given us a lovely and timely reminder of the beauty of autumn and a good lesson on the value of leaf mulch. Thank you!