The Fall of Autumn

Supposedly autumn began weeks ago and summer is a distant memory, and in theory I understand that, but with shorts weather popping in here and there and with a sweaty lawn mowing afternoon it was easy to pretend we’re closer to July than we are to Christmas.  That is until the last week and a half.  Frosts have arrived and even a good freeze on a few nights, and it’s become hard to keep thinking autumn will be here forever and winter’s not creeping up on the horizon.  Usually that in itself will spin me into despair over the loss of summer and the slow decay of annual life and the death of almost everything green… but I’m still kind of ok this year.  The chrysanthemums were rained out but the snowdrops are starting, the fall foliage was kind of drab but the tulips are going in, and between houseplants under lights and amaryllis bulbs filled with promise it’s only the occasional dreary day which gives me the blahs.

glass gem corn

I picked the last of the glass gem corn as the potager beds begin to clear out.  The surprise of unhusking is something I never tire of and for next year I wonder if planting only pink or green or lavender seed would be a thing to try. 

Trust me we’ve had a good share of dreary days, but sun as well, and if the sun can just keep trying for a few more weeks I think I’ll be able to get the bulbs in and the garden put to bed before the snow starts flying…. Assuming that happens…  Lately winters have become North Carolina mild and I’m already planning things like pruning in December and mulching in January rather than shoveling snow.

conifer pruning

A freshly pruned Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris, probably ‘nana on a high graft) looking neater, if not better, than it did before.

As the post-Covid schedule revs back up weekends are becoming more gymnastics and basketball and less sit in the garden all day thinking about what kind-of really-should ought-to-be done, rather than what comes first.  Of course I know what I should do, and of course I don’t always do it.  Case in point is the overly shaded, kind of overgrown, dwarf Scotch Pine along the porch.  It’s been that way for years and could be pruned pretty much anytime other than last Sunday, but after finishing a coffee and looking at it for one minute too long I started with that.  45 minuted spent crawling around underneath pruning out dead-wood and sawing down stubs and making the tree look arguably neater was probably not even on a to-do list but now it’s done.  Tulips are not planted, but this tree that I don’t even like all that much looks neater which is also probably good.

fall perennial border

Other things did happen last weekend.  A bunch of frozen mess was pruned down and thrown onto the lawn.  The it was all mowed up.  I think it looks very well kept and there’s also a nice pile of mulch which will be used elsewhere.

I often get into the mood where nothing’s good enough and everything’s an overgrown mess.  Sunday that happened again and now there’s one less clump of variegated maiden grass (Miscanthus ‘Dixieland’) in the garden.  I loved it but two wet years had it spending October and November as a floppy mess and instead of pruning the top I just pruned the roots instead.  Maybe it will be missed… but to be honest I’ve already got a few other things planted around it which could use more room so there’s a good chance whatever hole is left is already filled.  Such is the curse of the shoehorn/wedge-it-in planter.

fall perennial border

A five foot tall, five foot wide, white and green grass is missing.  I don’t even think anyone noticed.

In case you’re wondering, all the pots are accounted for and all the last tender tropicals are safely under cover for the winter, and for one of the first times ever this gardener didn’t have to jump up out of bed when he realized a freezing forecast was coming and there were still pots to drag in.  He can now think about all the cannas in need of digging and daffodils in need of a new home.  I guess that at least keeps him out of the bars.

autumn snowdrop galanthus

A fall snowdrop.  Galanthus reginae-olgae always blooms in the autumn as we head for winter and the new snowdrop season begins.  You could maybe say I’m excited about that…

So there it is.  The first snowdrop photo of the 2021/22 season and before anyone complains I want to add they’ve been blooming for weeks and I haven’t even mentioned them more than once or twice.  That will change of course, so fair warning 😉

planting tulips

I finally ripped out those disgusting dahlias.  Good riddance.  Tulips (probably way too many for a vegetable garden) are going in and a good mulch from the front lawn with chopped annuals and frosted perennials included is going on top.  

I think snowdrops in bloom are a big part of my rehabilitated views on autumn.  The fall season still doesn’t break into the top three of the favorite seasons list, but with colchicums and then chrysanthemums, and asters and cyclamen, and now snowdrops, things are much less gloomy and gray than they used to be.

Hope your autumn is more snowdrops and less gloomy as well, have a great week!

16 comments on “The Fall of Autumn

  1. Pauline says:

    Like your pruned scots pine, very artistic! Your photo of your corn cobs amused me because we have a field next to us which grows maize for cattle. The farmer harvested his crop a couple of weeks ago and ever since my garden is full of half eaten cobs, I think foxes and squirrels are bringing them in to eat and then just leaving the husks everywhere. Yours are much prettier and more colourful!

    • bittster says:

      I visited a botanical garden where all the scots pines were carefully trimmed to a Japanese style. Normally that does nothing for me, but this time I thought ‘hmmmmmm… not bad’.
      Your cobs on the lawn description is exactly what happened to the first batch of corn. One by one they disappeared, only to show up as empty husks on the lawn, driveway, neighbors lawn… wherever the squirrels finished with them.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It is good to read that you are well on you way to learning to embrace Autumn, one of my favorite seasons. Having a good pruning done, tulips to plant, mulch to chop and seeing those beloved snowdrops beginning to emerge announcing the season is enough to melt anyone’s heart.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t even mind the sunny days, but when there’s a string of rainy gloom I just mope around all day, looking out windows and wishing it would all go away and be done with.
      I think the last of the leaves will come down in the wind tonight. I don’t know if that officially makes it winter now, but I’d prefer to wait until Christmas and not rush it 😉

  3. Paddy Tobin says:

    The snowdrops are so very welcome at this early stage of the garden year; a great pick-up while most things are going into decline. Galanthus reginae olgae just don’t manage to grow in my garden but I do grow a few potfuls in the glasshouse and these are finishing flowering at present. The first of my outdoor snowdrops are in flower at present – G. elwesii ‘Barnes’, an easy and very reliable cultivar though I feel it is a a little too short to make a good impact in the garden. More to come, thankfully and we will drool over, photograph and show each and every one of them! What else would we do in the depths of winter! LOL

    • bittster says:

      This will be the first year for this reginae-olgae in the open garden. I’ve been trying to grow it in a pot, and it grows well enough but then going into dormancy there are always issues with rot or moldering bulbs so I’m trying them all outside. Wish me luck. I’ve included bursanus in the lot and would prefer not to replace that one. It looks good right now, but as far as I know the hardiness is still untested.
      Today and tomorrow are warm and I’m hoping to get a few fall photos for Barnes and some others which have come up. These last few years of longer falls have been excellent for making the fall-bloomers actually open up in the autumn and not just get caught by the cold and shut down and then sit and wait until spring.

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        Re G. reginae olgae in pots – I keep them in the glasshouse on a shelf which gets most sun and don’t give them a drop of water from when the foliage dies back until late August/early September. I think this baking replicated their conditions in Greece reasonably well. There they will have 40C and about four months without a drop of rain. I have on G. bursanus in the garden, a gift received last year. I continue to be amazed (and more than a little suspicious) how such a recently described species seems to have travelled the world so quickly. The one bulb has flowered – two flowers – and it a pretty thing. If it continues to grow, it will be even better!

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    “colchicums and then chrysanthemums, and asters and cyclamen, and now snowdrops, things are much less gloomy and gray than they used to be”… I think you are on to something there, Frank. A recipe for success!
    Happy November! Enjoy your turkey-day. 🙂

  5. Alas, it is just about to be full-on November here with chilly temps, freezes and a touch of snow flurries this morning. But we’ve had gorgeous fall color, blooming Hamamelis virginians and Thanksgiving Hellebores. So I am happy. Plus I cleaned my tools! Your garden looks wonderful. It always looks crisp with edged beds and grassy swaths. Glad to know you are enjoying the weather and your first snowdrops. I am using the excuse of our dicey autumn weather to keep myself from getting hooked on another snowdrop season. We high pruned a 20-yr.-old Chamaecyparis this summer that I bought from the old Heronswood for $6.00. Those were the days.

    • bittster says:

      Oh no, you’re already up to cleaning and sharpening tools!? I am so far behind!
      Tomorrow would be an excellent day to get a large amount of bulbs in and tubers out and catch up, but I reluctantly committed to going South and spending the whole day looking at and talking about plants. Darn it! 😉
      It’s possible the scotch pine was in for 20 yrs but it’s probably one of the only things here to make it that long. Even with a younger garden there’s a lot of shade where there never was and it’a a little concerning to this lover of full sun. I’m worried I might get a ‘great’ idea one day and take cuttings in the morning and borrow a chainsaw for the afternoon. Hmmm.

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Your garden looks well-tended and well-loved. I’m not a big fall person but you are on to something having interesting flowers to keep your heart happy ’til spring.

    • bittster says:

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that that into fall. Everyone else seems thrilled about the cooler weather and stuff, but I’m still more of a icecream and sunshine kind of guy!

  7. Cathy says:

    Sounds like your autumn has been kind, so I hope winter isn’t in a rush. Your garden looks incredibly green (and tidy!) for November. It has been grey and wet here this month, so I am actually looking forward to some crisp frosts.

    • bittster says:

      So far it seems like winter is in no rush to get here, and I’m just fine with that! But we have had some cold, and the crisp frosts have cleared out most of the garden and I was surprised to see you still have chrysanthemums!

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