As we enter November, fall color is deep and plentiful after a week of cool, wet weather. Whether the sky is overcast grey or brilliant blue, the reds, oranges, and yellows pop. The weight of the rain brought many leaves to the ground, creating a carpet around and over our gardens. Perennials may be on their way into dormancy, but they’re refusing to go without one last show of gold.
As I walked through the garden, I made a mental list of what needed to be removed and what would remain as winter texture. This will be a working weekend, so I wanted to capture fall before it gets raked away.
It’s interesting how those of us in four-season climates talk about the plants in our gardens — in terms of how long they’ll last. Annuals come and go in one growing season. Perennials come back every year, but mostly lie dormant below the ground in winter. Trees and shrubs — we think of them as the bones, the stalwart foundation, that last for years, perhaps a lifetime. We cherish them for their presence over time, rather than their value in the moment.
Frost took out the tender annuals this week, so it was time to do some cleanup. I walked through the garden, throwing the wilted carcasses of coleus, impatiens, and begonias into the wheelbarrow with the the voice of Monty Python’s cart master in my head.
Bring out your dead.
Bring out your dead.
I may have imagined one tougher than average coleus protest.
I’m not dead. I don’t want to go on the cart. I feel fine.
You’ll be soon dead in a moment.
Perhaps these thoughts are best left in my head, but I couldn’t resist sharing a little garden humor as the season comes to an end.
I spent most of this beautiful weekend laying six yards of mulch to define new beds and borders for next phase of our landscape redesign. On weekends when I’m focused on working in the garden, I sometimes forget to stop and enjoy it. This afternoon, after a shower to clean the layer of mulch off myself, I took a quick stroll with my camera. I wanted to catch the harvest light in the garden — a quality that only occurs this time of year. The angle trending south. The warmth that belies the chill in the air.
The office garden has become my favorite corner of the landscape. It was the last garden I designed this summer, the one that kept calling my name even though I knew the days were too hot and my budget too thin. I wonder if it’s because I saw it all the time, through the home office window, while I enjoyed my morning coffee, or grilled on the back patio.
I bought this coffee mug in 2016 at the Glacier Point gift shop in Yosemite National Park to add to my collection of mug memories. My son and I were on day three of our summer trip to California. Printed on it is a quote from naturalist John Muir.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
It was the perfect senitiment to capture this adventure of ours through central California. We’ve hiked a lot of paths together over the years, and more than a few of them have been dirt.
It’s the most perfect autumn morning, our season’s first chill. I stepped out into the crisp, 35°F air and felt it fill my lungs. I paused for a moment, then exhaled a satisfyingly visible trail of vapor back to the universe.