I was feeling a little artsy-fartsy last week, and I wandered around our property taking pictures of the state of our various planting beds as fall inexorably creeps in and finishes off summer for good. Here is a photo essay from those pictures (imagine me all in black, wearing a beret, listening to jazz or poetry as I put this together.....):
This rosebush was given to us by our pastor on the day we had Kiddo baptized. We have exactly the wrong type of soil for roses, and it seemed as though it had died by the end of that first year. We cut it back to remove all the dead bits (which was most of the bush) and let it be, more out of laziness than because we thought it would come back. Five years later, it hasn't really grown, but it persists in making a few blooms each summer. This would be its last hurrah for the year.
I learned that raspberries can bear fruit well into the fall from the fruit farm where we regularly do pick-your-own each year. However, this is the first year that my own raspberry plants have had a second harvest. I've been picking about a cup of ripe berries from them every few days, and there are still more yet to ripen, assuming we don't have a killing frost in the next couple of weeks.
My poor Echinacea plant - it was overtaken last summer by its aggressive (yet beautiful) cousin; a Rudbeckia plant I'd put in several feet away. This year, the Rudbeckia (aka black-eyed Susan) stayed over on its own side of the bed, but the Echinacea (aka cone flower) never quite regained its former glory, only growing to about a third of its original size. Hopefully next summer it will be bigger and stronger, assuming its cousin keeps her hands - or more precisely, her roots - to herself.
Some sort of bug infested the sunflowers early in the summer this year. Hubby came in from mowing one day and reported that there were swarms of little, white, winged pests covering the leaves. I tried to take care of the problem as soon as he alerted me, but the sunflowers never seemed to completely recover, yielding a pitiful crop of halfhearted, small flowers. The summer before, the sunflowers were magnificent in their dinner-plate-sized, taller-than-Kiddo, yellow splendor. This year, one decent bouquet of barely-saucer-sized blooms was all they mustered. They still are cheery, though, gracing the windowsill over the kitchen sink with their sunshiny presence (and spreading saffron-hued pollen all over with the cat's bee-impersonating assistance). Right after I took this picture, I cut this bloom and its one remaining companion and brought them in for a last dose of summer.
While I am an overly optimistic, yet haphazard gardener, with a blatant disregard for soil type or shade conditions and a lassitude for taking extra care with plants who shouldn't rightly thrive in the clay that masquerades as soil in our yard, I still luck out from time to time and get something that loves where I've planted it. Case in point: my Russian sage. I planted this years ago, purchased cheaply at an end-of-season clearance sale (I read the words "perennial" and "hardy" and thought woo-hoo, let's give that a shot) and every year since, it has come back taller and fuller and more gorgeous then ever before. We (read: Hubby) cut it back mercilessly every spring - we leave it through the winter as it adds interest to the landscape until the landscape invariably is obliterated by snow - and it shoots up and blooms for months even with the harsh treatment.
When the burning bushes burn, it is definitely a sign of fall. A few winters ago, our thriving vole community nearly destroyed our two burning bushes by gnawing off the bark around the base of the bushes and munching on the roots as well. We didn't expect them to survive, but they pulled through (and we began Mission: Vole Extermination the following spring) and they brighten my gray morning trudge to and from the bus stop with their fiery red leaves, bringing a smile to my face each day.
Ah, the true sign of fall, even more than the burning bushes going red or the sun disappearing from the sky.... mums and pumpkins! I am always drawn to the yellow mums more than any other color. I had some planted in the front yard, but the evil voles and their associates managed to do them in for good, so now I stick to keeping the mums well out of the critters' reach on my front porch, replacing the petunias in my milk jug-turned-planter and hanging baskets. (Or, in this year's case, the begonias that replaced the petunias in my hanging baskets.) The two pumpkins you see here represent the entirety of our first ever pumpkin harvest. Hubby and I were amazed that any pumpkins grew at all, considering this is the fourth year we've tried growing them and we've never had a single gourd to show for it before. Neither of them are big enough for carving, so we will be making a trip to the pumpkin patch for Kiddo's jack o' lantern soon, but they'll do nicely for decoration between now and Halloween.
I'm finally feeling ready for fall, but I do appreciate the plants that held on as long as they could to help ease the transition from technicolor and green to gray and lifeless... Let's just hold off on the snow until at least late November, okay, Mother Nature?