An Autumn wanders
They make a hard woody sound when you gather them together. They’re not strong, not at all like twigs of the same size, yet their rigidity as brown leftovers from summer glory lead me to believe that you could gather them for some kind of natural art piece. I tie the spent stems of my day lilies with a piece of a more flaccid aster stem and put them against the Japanese Maple as I work through the side garden. Maybe I can put them in a big vase on the floor.
It’s fall garden maintenance time.
The un-named bush that is now sporting white berries, no doubt poisonous to humans, is definitely feed for the birds. I leave the weedy, overgrown branches alone. The side border would look so much better if I could manage this shrub.
Everything is not about me and my desire for magazine clean borders.
Next it’s the astilbe, even with spent blossoms, they are lovely. I clean out some of the leaves and debris as best I can … all of this is a bit dicey when you are using a cane. The persistence of the meadowsweet is amazing to me, truly. A lovely flower itself, it is a bit of a bully, pushing its way among parts of the border where it overshadows everything. No matter how I attempt to corral it, it shows up in the oddest places. I reluctantly pull several of the meadowsweet stems out from the astilbe, knowing that it will show up somewhere next season.
Then it’s the area of the border that has defied all attempts to replant. Two yeas ago, something killed all of the perennials in this area. The area once was the happy home of delphiniums, salvia, foxglove, liatris, hollyhocks and Shasta daisies. A healthy, luxuriant sweet pink climbing rose grew up and over the shed. It was my showcase garden, the closest I ever came to the gardening prowess of my mother and grandmother. Now? A wan colored climber rose bush struggles to stay alive and all of the new perennials, planted carefully last year with the assist of Miracle Grow garden soil, have disappeared. The Catmint and veronica made a sad showing and then disappeared. The only growing things that seem to thrive are celandine, coneflowers and ajuga. But, oh my! The ajuga just filled the area last spring with a blue that challenged the sky. I do miss the tall cottage garden look of the delphies, the foxies, the hollyhocks that remind me of a long ago home. Did it remind me of a time when the blossoms weren’t filtered by the responsibilities of adult living? Even the belligerent bishop weed has died out here as did the previously annoying belligerent lamium, also known as “dead nettle.” I fought many a battle with those two.
While I try to figure out what is wrong with this area of my garden, I turn my attention across the small spate of grass to another garden, part shade, part sun. In the shade, I have my much-loved coral bells, planted not for the flowers but for the exciting colored leaves. All shades of green, sage and copper make this a special planting. They sit in front of Kathleen, the climbing rose I planted in honor of my sister, Kathleen. This rose has weathered many harsh winters but always produces an abundance of deeply red flowers, generous like its namesake. I may have to trim the long, wild canes that have escaped the trellis.
There are two patches of late spring blue flag that escort you to a mixture of obedient plants, lambs’ ear and oregano. I lost control of what grows here years ago. There is also one tulip bulb somewhere in there that blooms every spring. I yank weakly at the invading wild asters that pepper the very crowded mass of greenery.
In what I call my most valuable garden real estate, that which gets sun all day, there is stone crop ground cover, salvia, a struggling sage plant, thyme, iris and my rhubarb. The latter is from my grandmother’s rhubarb, but somehow, it doesn’t do as well as I remember hers doing and since it is represented by only two plants, my harvest is always small. But today, I can clean out some of the dead leaves from all of the inhabitants in the sun.
Growing next are several straggly peppermint stems. At one time this area was full of them, but some kind of fungus has attacked all of those mints and has left only a few to carry on. My sister brought me a very interesting perennial, the name of which I’ve forgotten, but it’s a low growing specimen with spotted broad green leaves. It seem to be doing well even in almost total shade. I should move some of these to places where they will add their color and textures.
And culminating the end of my border are the Hostas, hugging the shady side of the shed. This year the deer eschewed their yearly gorging on their flowers. There are two varieties here. One blossoms later with large white, sweetly-fragrant flowers. Both seed their offspring prodigiously throughout the area. There is always detritus to gather here. I may dig some up and bring them to the plant exchange on Main Street.
Lastly there are the hard green shells of the black walnut tree that has begun to produce these missiles vigorously. I move some of the walnuts to the rocky ledge for those four legged neighbors who are willing to do the work to get to the nuts.
I wander slowly, appreciating that nature has, even with my cane-forced neglectfulness, produced another summer of flower, scent and beauty. I will clear what is necessary, what I am able to, but I have also learned that, as with most things of the earth, the garden provides is a functioning part of the whole, not only for itself but for other species, for birds and squirrels, chipmunks, opossums and more. A younger me would have swept the area clean, but now, I’ve learned, and I leave most of what I find, the shelter and food for those with whom I share this little space on the earth.