25 October 2012

Closing Up Shop

Autumn landed on the doorstep with a resounding thud a week or so ago with temperatures dropping to near-freezing. But then this is New England, and within the span of a day and a half, the sun had returned, the days were balmy, and the nights mild once again. But not all was jolly in Garden Land.

My Coleus plants had bitten the dust overnight, as did the Morning Glory and Scarlet Runner Bean vines. At first glance the Moonflowers seemed to have survived, although my hopes that buds, which had been threatening to open for weeks, might actually advance into creamy white blossoms have been growing dimmer by the day. Ah well.

I have learned, to my chagrin and my garden's peril, that it's unwise to think I can stay one step ahead of a hard New England frost. So despite the return of these temperate October days, winter's brief and jolting preview was enough of a warning for me, thank you very much.

As a result, I've been busying myself with tasks that herald the end of all that is green and growing.

I pruned the basil and brought the stems indoors to dry for winter soups and stews.

I removed the screens from the verandah windows—always a sad as well as daunting task, given its resemblance to wing-walking—and replaced them with the storm windows.

Into the verandah's more temperate environment is where the potted herbs will remain for the next few weeks, standing shoulder to shoulder along the ledge to catch the sun's rays as they pour in from the East each morning. Come winter, they will be moved into the sunniest of the kitchen windows, but for now they participate in this charade of being "outside".  (I really don't have the heart to tell them otherwise....)

The storm windows in the cottage were lowered, and the boiler was drained in anticipation of having to turn it on once the nights become too brisk for simply another blanket, shawl or pair of socks.

The fireplace was emptied of its collection of cast-off bird nests and haphazardly arranged birch bracken, making way for blazing fires on chily nights. The first fire of the season is one of my favorite Autumn rituals. I love the scent of woodsmoke on the air when I step outside and the warmth that circulates throughout the parlor as the flames lick over the crackling logs.

As for the rest of the garden, I'll be spending the coming days tidying up: pulling up wilted plants, raking leaves and distributing them over flower beds, stowing the garden chairs, tables, wind chimes, plant stands, and trellises away.

And then there's the rain barrel, which is currently filled to overflowing with the bounty of several Autumnal rainstorms. There were many days in mid-August when I would have paid a princely sum for even a fraction of the water that rests there now!  But since the barrel is plastic it has to be emptied and put into the shed to winter over so the seams don't burst. Sadly, this necessitates turning on the spigot and watching as this watery treasure runs out into garden beds that are already a bit sodden. It happens every year but I am always just as heartsick each time.  (And I will think back to this moment on some parched afternoon next August, I'm sure....)

".. summer gathers up her robes of glory and, like a dream, glides away."— Sarah Helen Whitman

Jefferson once said, "But though an old man, I am but a young gardener." I, too, have much to learn despite the amount of soil I have dug under my nails over the years.  But it's the process I adore, and no matter how much time passes I do love these trials and lessons. It is the most humbling of activities, second only to rearing children or trying to read from a knitting chart.


  1. I love how you write of your love for gardening. Each sentence is like a poem or song. Thanks for your visit to my blog. Your comment on my wings is cherished.


  2. Oh it's sad to put the garden to bed! But I have no closed porch or even sunny kitchen window! So it's a big deal to figure out where to winter over house plants. I'm with you on cozy fires though!

  3. Thank you both for stopping by and for your kind words.