Once again, its time to start putting the garden to bed. Sigh. Looking at spent up plants, fallen leaves and worn out lawns, I’m acutely reminded of the long, dark winter months ahead. I’m overcome with a sense of sadness and a reluctance to let go of light cast days of summer. I regret the time wasted by shirking duties in the garden. When I escaped too quickly into the air-conditioned comfort of the house mumbling the excuse of wilting in the humidity. Why instead, didn’t I accept that it was okay to sit outside and still not do the chores? At least the pleasures of the outdoors could have been indulged. But no, I could not look the garden in the eye when I failed to tend it properly and so I skulked away. What a loss of good summer hours.
With the heavy heart of one saying goodbye to a very dear friend, I start on my chores. Soon, I’m filled with optimism and anticipation of our next encounter only a few months away. I’m suddenly aware that the tasks themselves are full of promise.
Consider the seed pods ripening on the stems. While they dry and make percussion music in the breeze, they hold everything to make more plants for the next time around. Tomorrow will offer abundance. I harvest the pods and tuck them away in labeled envelopes till its time to awaken them at the end of winter. Already, I’m planning exactly when each type of seed will be started. My heart beats a wee bit faster.
Cutting back the perennials and pulling up the annuals allows me the satisfaction that comes from cleaning and tidying. The perennials go dormant and I imagine them replenishing their energy to emerge again in the spring full of vim and vigor for yet another year of giving joy.
Dividing perennials like peonies and irises at this time provides the opportunity to expand the garden with more of what I love. I add other treasures from the nursery. When I’m finished, it doesn’t look like much but I know that after the winter, the garden will come alive bigger and better than before. My heart beats even faster. I’m smiling as though its already spring.
Planting a tree in itself is an act of faith. Particularly if it is a tree that grows slowly and grows big. I myself may not be there to see it in its fullness but future generations will and that is reason enough to invest in tomorrow. Someone down the road will be grateful for this gift from the past. The thrill I feel is akin to secretly leaving May baskets for neighbors. Such fun.
Even as I gather the freshly raked leaves, I’m thinking about the rich compost they will make to feed the plants next growing season. That thought permits my arms and shoulders to bear the aches and soreness as a badge of honor and continue the work with renewed vigor. Optimism is a powerful motivator.
The bulbs I ordered in mid-summer have arrived just in time for fall planting. Innocuous brown packages in a variety of sizes. Its just incredible that they contain what will become some of the most beautiful sights of spring and summer. To hold a bulb in my hand is to hold a miracle. Now my heart is truly aflutter. I’m positively ecstatic.
The fall offers up a chance to do over parts of the garden or even the entire garden. Its as though past mistakes are forgiven, new chances to try something different are presented.
Suddenly I’m attacking my chores with enthusiasm and ardor. I savor the colors of autumn and inhale the crisp, cool air. I feel truly alive. A new energy has infused my spirit and the winter ahead is no longer dreaded. I’ll use up that season with garden dreams and plans. And I’ll wait with restrained impatience for spring. I see hope, potential and possibilities everywhere. Pollyanna lives!
I cut the last of the ‘Heritage’ rose and bring the fragrant flowers to cherish indoors. The first frost is expected tonight.
Milkweed seed pod
Last roses of summer
(c) 2012 Shobha Vanchiswar