Text by Michael Leach; photos by Teresa Woodard
The past-tense season is here. More plants in my garden are past their prime than coming into it.
However, the future tense promises abundant color for me, as perhaps for you. Autumn is a spectacle. Ironweed is beginning to flower. Golden rod is not far behind. Buds are plumping up on asters and hardy mums. With luck, Monarchs will add even more visual pizzaz when the crabapples have turned burgundy, crimson and orange. That’s about the same time the flowers of autumn crocus and colchicum suddenly appear over night and the unimpressive flowers on the beautyberry or callicarpa become small fruit that look like clusters of lavender pearls. (Please share your fall favorites that flourish in your Midwest garden.)
The future also brings the golden grandeur of ancient sugar maples on the front lawn. They are but one dab on the autumn palette of tree and shrub color. Breathtaking autumn is the finale of growing season, which is always too short and delicious for me to release without a sigh or two.
When winter becomes the present tense we enter the hospital-waiting-room of seasons — time stands still (maybe runs backward), as the gray gloom plods imperceptibly toward spring.
Shudder as we might at that thought, gardeners spend little time looking over shoulders, being wistful about what was.
Why? Garden is both verb and noun.
This makes gardeners action people, busy in the present with an eye toward the future. We rarely stop considering ways to make our little Edens more beautiful. This will ensure the present tense, whatever the season, is lovely.
We deliberately cultivate signs of hope in the garden. Where there is hope there is life.
Don’t forget the birds- the vibrant golden of the American goldfinches feasting on the seed heads of the fading purple coneflowers.
The sweet autumn clematis(which has been cut back voraciously) is just starting to bloom. This was one of the early vine ecologies, that the early settlers called The Whore. It covered streams and rivers and paths and roads had to be cut thru the stuff – snakes tended to hang down and fall on workers. There is some on the Olentangy River. They much preferred virgin’s bower. False sunflowers are poking right thru the blooms – the vine in the parking lot garden has grown up this huge dog rose, whose fruits are turning red. One of the vines has grown to the top of a blue spruce, and will be torn down immediately after bloom, unless this white picoteed purple morning glory kicks in. This is in the back yard of 306 E. 11th Some of my various goldenrods are starting to bloom, perennial sweet pea and knapweed are still performing and some of the annual sweet peas, which have been diddling for months, will possibly bloom soon. Mints are in full bloom – I have have cut some of the flowers (to include mountain mint) and stored them in bottled lemon juice. I have planted almost the whole length of a pussy willow, and the phlox (which has been cut back) has started a whole new set of blooms.
That’s a good point. They are a magical touch.