End of November will mean the final end of my growing season. There have been years I plant and do garden work in December and January, but it is a bit of madness really… and I don’t see that in my future at this point. So the end of my garden season, it is.
I’m cleaning up around the yard, and I pushed to plant the final fifty tulip bulbs. Turned out to be more difficult than I pictured. Not that this is unusual. The mind has a way of viewing physical work as a logical sequence of time slotted tasks which the actual working out, with sweat equity, makes a mockery. When you are both the white collar and blue collar worker of your garden you get that rare taste of the basic conflict between an ivory tower and the “digger of the moat”. I remember the sharp lesson one July. I had assigned a task of digging out an area of the driveway island for a small bed to a couple of my sons. It was typical Midwestern high summer weather- hot and drippingly humid. They weren’t making good progress, so I pulled on the garden gloves to assist. Wow, what a wake-up call. The mind’s picture that it was a small bed only so by so, with several strong workers on task, all melted in pouring perspiration, and nasty thoughts about the small gravel that made the digging particularly onerous. I sent said workers inside for a respite (along with myself), and never forgot that lesson: what I imagined was a relatively easy task, when complicated by real world conditions, required much more effort than was allotted for in the mental plan. Moat digger to Ivory tower,”Are you nuts?”
The picture above is of that driveway bed as of today. It holds a young ‘Prairie Fire’ crabapple tree, fronted by Annabelle hydrangea, backed by what Coreopsis verticillata looks like in mid November, variegated sedum, some lambs ears, and goldflame spirea which has lost its lovely apricot autumn leaf. I really should work on this garden some more… next year. A brick edging maybe.
If you are in the mood for more ruminations on the end of the season and how my garden grew… read on, as they say….
I wanted to wedge that moral lesson in up front… before I amble on about how melancholy this time of year tends to make me. It isn’t the change of season or the gray brown colors. I am one of those people who usually likes stormy weather, winter scenes, and quiet evenings at home. But I think it is the solemn comparison of the high hopes of Spring with the reality of work done, and season accomplishment that dampens my spirits far more than any November clouds or precipitation.
This year we had a wonderful Indian Summer. I wasted much of it inside, but that is par for the course in how I do things… nevertheless I didn’t waste all of it, and what I enjoyed was delicious.
There is something very correcting in the natural balance of my garden in early spring and late fall. It looks neat, and groomed, with newly weeded and dug garden beds, edged verges, mown lawn, and pruned plants. Mulch covers a multitude of sins, blanketing with a semblance of homogeneous brown. My eye looks over the garden and I am not just satisfied like some outdoor hausfrau, but inspired to dream of future artistry. As if I have cleaned the palette, and primed the canvas for yet another work of art…next season.
Yet, I am melancholy. Nagging thoughts of my waning energies, and the knowledge that we have no promises of tomorrow are likely reminders contributing to that. My backward look over the season is marked with some thoughts of the failures: tomatoes did not do well, that front perennial bed was not renovated, weeds had gotten into the driveway bed and needed much more time to remove. It was a banner year for bindweed.
Awkwardly, I force myself to see what was accomplished and enjoyed. I have some cleared and renewed plantings in the gardens nearest the house. Exciting things like the Jack Frost Brunnera, and the second year of the Caramel Heuchera have been growing well. Finally, renewing of tulip beds, with some fresh Holland grown tulips (always best in their first year here)guarantee to brighten my coming April in 2010. The bushes around the drive island all well pruned, much poison ivy vanquished, vegetable gardens brought back into production, a giant pile of free mulch, trees professionally pruned this year, winning parts of the garden back from forced neglect of past years.
My garden is my own.
I think I am finally coming to terms and accepting that, in both actual gardening and life. A personal garden, fitting in with many other demands and obligations; there…because I want it there. And that is as good a lesson as any to meditate on, to ameliorate the melancholy… and allow it to mellow to a settled contentment of mind.
Finally, the November frosts and rains mellow things, don’t they? What’s past melts into the ground and waits… there is a seed within it. What future joys and life are in that seed? It is the gardener’s good pleasure to see in the next season. And there is a lot of hope in that.