By Michael Leach
Even as the last leaves cling stubbornly to the trees, snowflakes twirl to the ground. Ah the mixture of seasonal icons that is November, one day autumn, the next winter, sometimes both in the same 24 hours.
Indoors the winter “look” is back, as the houseplants, gathered from their summering grounds on porch and in the garden, recover from their sulk of yellow leaves. As they find a new equilibrium, so shall I. Soon their green leaves and occasional blooms will be pleasant reminders that the gray world beyond the windows will awaken — eventually — from dormancy.
For now, however, the fatigue of a long, challenging growing season makes me more weary than usual at this time of year. A summer of seemingly endless weeding, mowing and trimming back has me thinking nothing new and fresh happened. But a few moments of recollection show this is wrong in several ways. I’m actually ahead on a few projects and you probably are too.
For instance, in the last, desperate acts of cleanup and shut down before the snow, I managed to scrub the pair of recycled-plastic Adirondack chairs to a reasonable whiteness. Instead of dragging out dingy, grayish furniture next spring, they’ll look almost new. Never done that before.
Then there’s the waterlily. Growing in small pool, this plant is perhaps a half century old. Hmm, when was it last repotted? Reagan may have been president. An undemanding plant to say the least.
Its ability to remain so long in the same quarters was due to the gradual transformation of the pool area into a deep shade alcove. A mere sprig of bamboo turned into walls and partial ceiling of dense privacy. (Bamboo was a less than perfect solution to screening the unsightly mess of dented cars and attendant debris at the auto body shop that went in next door. Over the years, the business cleaned up its act considerably, while the bamboo continued to grow ever more thuggish.) By the time I hired a crew in the spring of 2013 to cut down a swath bordering the pool, barely enough light penetrated to produce a handful of pitifully small lily “pads” each summer.
Suddenly sunlight poured in much of the day and the grateful lily bloomed repeatedly last summer and again this year. Not surprisingly, the plant outgrew its venerable clay pot. Instead of waiting until frenetic spring 2015, repotting was one of several chores tackled on a busy September afternoon. Viola! I was done with that.
Another revival. Among the bamboo stumps a semi-sunny border is developing. A flat of wee perennials, a few transplanted hostas and three baby variegated red twig dogwoods were wedged in amongst old bamboo roots, the rebar of the plant world. The newbies are all mulched for winter. I’m done with that.
I’m also done with the fall planting, which included a paltry 200 or so spring bulbs, a flat of pansies that should survive winter for early color and a half dozen or so small shrubs.
There’s more to do this fall, weather permitting, as always. But why fret and stew about an incomplete to-do list when there’s so much to take pleasure in having accomplished? I’m done with that. And I hope you are, too.