Mellow: Defined as: 1. Sweet, soft, juicy and full-flavored because of ripeness; 2. Rich and soft in quality; 3. Having the gentleness, wisdom or dignity often characteristic of wisdom; 4. Relaxed and at ease; genial; 5. Slightly and pleasantly intoxicated; 6. Moist, rich, soft and loamy.

I didn’t realize when I dove into today’s writing that the definition would prove so garden-worthy.

I will start by saying, exclusive of the obvious #6 about soil, that I feel this time of year is every one of the 1-5. Vegetables and harvests are coming in with plenty, the frenzy of back-to-school activities and others of the autumn season not yet here, people are taking their last summer vacations. Even the traffic around Southern New Jersey is not as fierce and frantic. I often feel #5 when I look into the bounty of the late summer garden. Foliages are full, well hydrated, pockets of color punctuate the garden.  I drink in the visual of the rich, late summer garden palette, awed by not only the richness of the golds, the yellows, but also by the way the angle of the sun makes the garden glow as it drops down toward the southern part of the sky. Bees are still in a feeding frenzy on the variety of plants still providing food. Sometimes they just collapse upside down on a petal after gorging themselves. Yesterday, I saw several tiny white moths feeding on some of the wildflower seeds I had planted; they are new visitors to the garden and as they fed on the flowers, I watched them as they rubbed their small, white-with-purple-flecked lower wings back and forth like little scissors. I felt the tension in my neck from the long drive relax.

I think of yellow flowers in the garden as book ends. First, there are the daffodil trumpets and witch hazel early with a spring announcement, a big “Ta-Da!” Not at all what I would describe as mellow. The spring yellows seem to me almost over-bright, the squint-your-eyes-to-look color which is appropriate after a long, cold winter.  After all, they are heralding the new, the spring, the renewal. We need it then. Now, toward autumn, there are are golds of the Black-eyed Susan and the arching blooms of the Goldenrod here at the end of the summer. Did I really just say that? End of summer? But yet here it is. My Coral bark Japanese Maple has already started to turn gold, the Golden Rain tree has transformed its flowers into copper-colored pods, the orange-yellow of the Sneezeweed, just opened, adds to the rich colors of the garden. I heard the squirrels harvesting their gold, the fruit of the dogwood tree, outside the bedroom window. This is how I woke today. Finally, there is the first sprinkle of leaves on the lawn under the Katsura tree next to the front porch, offering the scent of caramel latte. This tree usually begins its full-on change to gold around Labor Day. The first leaves to falling now are just an indicator of things to come. I love that the garden gives us these messages. To tune into it provides for us the gentle, dignity of the seasons as they pass one to another, just as the definition indicates.

I took a short trip to the Buffalo area this week to visit friends and family. I went by myself which allowed me plenty of time to think about this edition of “good morning in the garden,” among other things. I feel a deep mellow from this journey and as I drove I thought about the circle of family love and how what we want to do most when we get together is sit around a table, eat, talk and share. Our shared history. Memories of those who are in are hearts but no longer present in our lives. I thought about the gift of my since- 7th -grade friend, Karen, who is not only a fabulous friend, but a genuinely big-hearted, very talented woman with a generous laugh equal to her sense of humor.

The journey to my childhood homeland is to go up through Pennsylvania, through the middle of New York, then westward and drive to near the end. Or  else you will arrive at the Niagara River, Lake Erie or the Canal. On the drive, the trees in the hill areas were beginning to take on some autumn gold, some “mellow yellow,” as the sun came down with its own golden glow through the openings in some big, puffy clouds. Buffalo has a very rich history, and for all of us who love the garden, it has one of the nation’s largest garden tours, despite a very short growing season. I think this is because they (the gardeners) appreciate it more for the brevity. Buffalo has a wonderful, revitalized area called Canalside that honors the heritage and history of the people and the area. I did not get to see it on this short trip, but will make plans for it next time. Summer is a great time to visit as the temperatures are comfortable–everyone knows how famous Buffalo is for snow, which I remember can begin in earnest sometimes as early as Halloween. Buffalo was also the first city in America to have electricity, which brought fame and prosperity to the city at the turn of the 20th Century.  Read more about Buffalo: Clearing in the Distance by Witold Rybcyznski–about the famed Frederick Law Olmsted, who not only designed Central Park, but was instrumental in the development of the Parkway System in Buffalo; City of Light by Lauren Belfer, a historical novel about Buffalo.

Of course I ate some chicken wings.

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