Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In the Garden: The End of the Season

Although we haven't had a hard frost in our east central Illinois garden yet, there have been some chilly nights down in the thirties that prompted us to bring in the houseplants last week. Starting in May, the houseplants enjoy living outdoors on the plant table in light shade in the north yard, where they can have a hosing down from time to time to supplement the real thing--RAIN--of which there was plenty this year! But they don't like it too cold and usually are pretty agreable about coming in for the next six months and putting up with low humidity and watering can showers in exchange for central heating.

And so we come to the end of another season. I complain a lot about chilly rainy autumn and dreary freezing winters, but it's the miracle of the change of seasons that makes it all bearable. Winter's kind of worth it because Spring is so great. (Dear readers, remind me of these words in February when I'm griping.) The last things in bloom are mostly annuals -- bless their hearts, they require some expense and effort to put into the containers every spring and regular watering, of course, but what a payback: six months of color!

     It's always interesting in a given year to see which annuals have lasted to the end, survived the drought or flood, the muggy weather or the balmy days, depending on the moodiness of Midwestern weather. This year the salvias have been big champions. I always have to have some of the annual reds, and this year I tried a sort of Indian red one and mixed it in with the tall blue Victorias that take longer to bloom well but last long. And there are some old standbys as well, such as marigolds and lantana, dianthus and angelonias.

Some red angel wing begonias are still blooming nicely in pots in the shadier west garden, along with impatiens that will probably be the ones to let us know first when the hard freeze comes.
     Fall is always a bit melancholy for me, the dying of the season, the end of another time of beauty, the harbinger of colder days, and so on. But I do love the changing leaf color, especially on our Japanese maples and the big sugar maples and sweet gums in our tree-lined twin towns.
     I don't know if we'll have another good weather day when our friend Bryan can continue the "garden rehabilitation" work he started this fall, but I'll update you on his progress when he does. Warning to fellow gardeners: it's so easy for tree seedlings, weeds, volunteers, and vines to get OUT OF CONTROL in a very short time. Of course, this is especially true when the gardeners in question are enthusiastic about planting and expanding but ho-hum about maintenance in all its aspects . . . add in aging and health issues . . . and then you need a young friend to jump-start garden rehabilition.

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