“Repetition is not failure.
Ask the waves, ask the leaves, ask the wind.” –Mark Nepo
Every year we come to autumn. But as Nepo says, while repeated it is not a failure, nor the same. Leaves will drop, but their colors will be different every year and so will the timing. The same wind blows through, but yet different. We see it and experience it differently from where we are–inside and out.
I know a very wise man who says it’s never about what we lose, but what we get to keep in life that really counts. I can’t tell you how often I think of this –nearly daily, truth be told. The days are so noticeable shorter; we can literally watch them slip away.
Summer is done. Officially. I read this the other day in Garden Design Magazine, from editor, Thad Orr: “…whenever we start putting together the autumn issue of the magazine, and I see the gardens or speak with the designers, I’m convinced that this late-season is when gardens are most animated. Many of the gardens are designed specifically to create sensory experiences. It’s in autumn that these experiences take full effect.” I totally agree with this; the autumn garden is my very favorite garden. There is so much to savor in what we experience in it now, and the memory of how it grew up over the season, spring until now. The colors are the deepest and the richest, the air fresh and cool. Yet we also can remember autumns before, too. We experience one now, and recall those past. They each become things to keep even while we see the days drawing shorter. Do the best things happen right before they are done? I wonder….
While on the topic of Garden Design Magazine, the same issue suggests some great plants for fall in the article, “Way Hot Plants: Lasting Color,” by Jenny Andrews. Of Andrews’ list that I’ve grown for myself or for clients: Cotinus x “Grace.” (Smoke tree.) A beautiful name for a really great shrub that can even be a small tree. I have seen this in several nurseries throughout the season. “Leaves….are light red in spring, changing to plum red, and then to a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and yellow in fall. Huge puffs of maybe flower heads, 12-14 inches….12-15 feet tall.” Last year I planted two in containers for a client for her fall display along with some Carex “Bronco” and some sedum. It was fabulous. The plants went into the garden bed before the final container change-out in December. They look even better now having grown up some.
Also on the GD list is Rhus typhina “Tiger Eyes” (Staghorn Sumac.) “Tiger Eyes sumac has brilliant foliage, emerging chartreuse in spring, then segueing to bright yellow, held aloft by downy, pinkish-leaves, deer-antler-like-branches. In autumn the leaves put on a multicolored show of scarlet and orange.” Not noted here but a nice feature, too: big, fat winter buds. Absolutely a specimen plant.
Right this minute as I craft this newsletter, I hear the autumn breeze rattling the pods on the Golden Rain tree and turn my head to look out the window upon it. My third floor space is still higher than it–and will be for some time. These pods were glorious, golden panicles in the summer. Then they turned to green pods, then to copper-colored pods, which they are now. I have cut many for decoration, but the rest are above trimmer-height, out of my reach. This tree is a garden gem: the crown is broad and spreading, beautiful golden fall color (yet to come) and these amazing seed pods. I keep two things: the memory of the golden flowers and the copper pods I’ve gathered.
I am keeping the small succulents I’ve raised in a pot all summer–inside over the winter. I talk sometimes about “nursery-ing” plants in containers. This is a good example of that. Plus, given the dreadful winters we have had in recent past, I don’t want to take the chance that despite the protected south-facing space, they will survive the winter. By preserving them indoors I’ll have a leg-up on something for next year. Another bonus for using succulents in case you don’t already know: they actually like the hot and dry conditions we had this summer. At least there was something that didn’t need much water! They grew to such a nice size this season, I know they will be even better by the end of next summer.
I also loved the Tower Garden I set up this year. I have to say, it was better than I thought it would be and I liked it better than I thought I would, having always been a soil gardener. We harvested rounds and rounds of basil for pesto, kale for smoothies, many types of greens for salads all summer. Gave lots away, too. I have round two growing in it right now. I will get to keep it for a long, long time: the construction is sturdy and we will harvest from it until frost comes. The Tower Garden can come indoors, too, if I want–there are now grow lights available for it. This way, I can have it in my studio and grow greens all winter. If you have any questions about this, please reach out; it is one of the best things I have done in the garden in a very long time. I do sell it on my website. If you buy one and live close by, I’ll even come and help you set it up for no charge! Or talk you through it over the phone.
Lastly, this morning outside the bedroom window, I saw a chipmunk in the dogwood tree, eating some berries. The squirrels have been at it for a while now, and they ate the berries near where the branches would hold their weight. The chipmunk, being significantly smaller, is able to dance his striped self among the smaller branch-tip ends with grace and ease, getting enough goodies to help him hibernate in my garden wall. Down the tree he ran, full-cheeked. I love how my garden provides food–for these little creatures and in turn, opportunities to see them at work and play– which is food for thought for me. And a keeper.